How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals

We all have goals and dreams, but it can be difficult to stick with them.

Each week, I hear from people who say things like, “I start with good intentions, but I can’t seem to maintain my consistency for a long period of time.”

Or, they will say, “I struggle with mental endurance. I get started but I can’t seem to follow through and stay focused for very long.”

Don’t worry. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else.

For example, I’ll start one project, work on it for a little bit, then lose focus and try something else. And then I’ll lose focus on my new goal and try something else. And on and on. When everything is said and done, I’ve stopped and started so many times that I never really made much progress.

Maybe you have felt this way too.

This problem reminds me of a lesson I learned while working out one day…

The Myth of Passion and Motivation

On this particular day in the gym, there was a coach visiting who had worked with thousands of athletes over his long career, including some nationally-ranked athletes and Olympians.

I had just finished my workout when I asked him, “What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”

He briefly mentioned the things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent.

But then he said something I wasn’t expecting.

“At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”

That piece of advice surprised me because it’s a different way of thinking about work ethic.

Most of the time people talk about getting motivated and “amped up” to work on their goals. Whether it’s business or sports or art, you will commonly hear people say things like, “it all comes down to having enough passion.”

As a result, I think many people get depressed when they lose focus or motivation because they think that successful people have some unstoppable passion and willpower that they seem to be missing. But that’s exactly the opposite of what this coach was saying.

Instead, he was saying that really successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day. But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals.

According to him, it’s this ability to do the work when it’s not easy that separates the top performers from everyone else. That’s the difference between professionals and amateurs.

Working When Work Isn’t Easy

Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated.

When I was an athlete, I loved going to practice the week after a big win. Who wouldn’t? Your coach is happy, your teammates are pumped up, and you feel like you can beat anyone. As an entrepreneur, I love working when customers are rolling in and things are going well. Getting results has a way of propelling you forward.

But what about when you’re bored? What about when the work isn’t easy? What about when it feels like nobody is paying attention or you’re not getting the results you want?

Are you willing to work through 10 years of silence?

It’s the ability to work when work isn’t easy that makes the difference.

It’s Not the Event, It’s the Process

All too often, we think our goals are all about the result. We see success as an event that can be achieved and completed.

Here are some common examples…

  • Many people see health as an event: “If I just lose 20 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.”
  • Many people see entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our business featured in the New York Times, then we’d be set.”
  • Many people see art as an event: “If I could just get my work featured in a bigger gallery, then I’d have the credibility I need.”

Those are just a few of the many ways that we categorize success as a single event.

But if you look at the people who are consistently achieving their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s their commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event.

What’s funny, of course, is that this focus on the process is what will allow you to enjoy the results anyway…

If you want to be a great writer, then having a best-selling book is wonderful. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of writing.

If you want the world to know about your business, then it would be great to be featured in Forbes magazine. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of marketing.

If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing 20 pounds might be necessary. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently.

If you want to become significantly better at anything, you have to fall in love with the process of doing it. You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want.

In other words…

Fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves.


  1. Ryan says:

    Simple, self-evident and brilliant. Thanks James.

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks Ryan! I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts.

    • Tim says:

      Very nice article ! In the East Indian traditions practice, is looked at as something you just do for many many births. Its your gift. Now that’s boredom, but it is your duty and your passion as well. We in the West appear very goal driven to others that just do.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks James. You left out two answers though: what is a person’s identity and how does one discover one’s identity and change it? Is my identify my beliefs? I don’t think so. After all, I change my beliefs. For example, I believe different things now then when I was 20. Is my identity the relationships I have, the things I do or the things I own? I don’t think so. So what is my identity and how do I change it or can I?

  2. Paul Daniel says:

    Wow. REALLY well said. Thank you.

    Paul Daniel

  3. Diane says:

    Oh boy, I really needed that. I discuss this with my Curvy Goddesses on my website and I am very transparent about things. I am not this superheroine who has finally succeeded but I am a human being who does really super things sometimes and maybe many times but then again I get into this slump like I am now.

    Still trying to get myself out of one and waiting for my second wind. But maybe waiting is not the right strategy based on your article. :)

    • James Clear says:

      Good luck busting out of this slump, Diane! Keep finding ways to stick to your schedule and put the work in. If you haven’t read them already, then this article and this one might help with that.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Diane says:

        Thanks James. I actually went ahead and hired a performance coach. We haven’t officially started but he’s already made a huge impact on me. I feel like I’m transforming.

        I’ve coaches in the past. But this man is brilliant and powerful! I am over the moon with my decision!



  4. Motivation is one of the biggest personal development hoaxes out there. People only cater to it because they see everyone else talking about it.

    Who made the rule that you have to be motivated to do something? That is a crippling mindset to have, when instead, you could have the mindset, “I can get myself to do anything at any time.” If you have the mindset that you need motivation to do things, then of course you’ll be dependent on it, but it’s just a belief like any other, and it’s not a beneficial belief to have.

    • Steffen says:

      i agree. i thought something similar:

      not having motivation is just an excuse for not starting. just like rain is an excuse for not running!!

      don’t think about the excuses why you can’t do it, think about the reasons why you MUST do it.

      great post James.

      • Melissa Tomlinson says:

        To those who use rain as an excuse NOT to run — Nearly every p.r. I’ve set has been due to rain. Between a 10k and full marathon, all in pouring rain. Sometimes your perceived obstacle is your actual catalyst. You get my point…

  5. Nick Barber says:

    Funny reading this today, because this happened to me today. All this stuff I could do but I was getting bored with the little tedious stuff that you do with a small business. I found myself playing solitaire instead of doing my marketing. It is so true, you have to love the boredom to get to the top. If you don’t, pack up shop now and go home. My wife and I were training for the Detroit Marathon during a time in which she was at Ft. Meade for training. We did an 18 mile run, in the rain around the parade field 18 times (1 mile loop). A boring, rainy run, however, when we finished our first marathon 4 weeks later, we looked back at the run and laughed. We made it through the boredom and the results were amazing.

    • James Clear says:

      Good examples, Nick. Congrats on finishing that marathon and good luck growing your business. And as always, thanks for reading!

  6. Michael says:

    This is one of the best things I have ever read about success, motivation and passion. Thanks.

    • James Clear says:

      Wow — thank you for the compliment, Michael! I really appreciate the support. I’ll do my best to keep good ideas flowing your way.

  7. Mariel says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Lee says:

    Cogently written!

    Inspired me to read through yet another clump of tedious words; only to discover a brilliantly simple truism, cloaked within.

    Well done!

    Thank you!

  9. Kurt Nelson says:


    Nailed this one. It is about doing the things we need to do — even when we don’t want to. Motivation can help jump start the process… but at some point it takes persistence and just gutting it out.

  10. Deborah Owen says:

    Terrific article, thanks James. As a teacher I do a lot of reading and thinking about motivation because there are so many teens who appear to be unmotivated in school. I think the real issue is they don’t find relevance in their courses and they don’t feel that their voices are heard. You point out that we do need to feel some passion about something to make progress, but we also have to be committed to the process, the journey.

    I think it is really difficult for young people to be able to work despite the boredom. They think everything is supposed to be exciting, and it’s just not. I do worry that when these teens reach the workforce they will be unprepared for the hard work necessary to learn new things and create new ideas. Not all of them, of course, but enough of them. I like the end of the article: falling in love with the identity of someone who does the work. It’s a mindset thing.

    Thanks again.

    • Laura Cheftel says:

      Dear Deborah,

      I am 17, and an avid reader of James’ articles. Your comment really resonated with me. I often feel as if my teachers don’t notice me and don’t identify with me, so it’s nice to know that despite their apparent indifference, they do care about how their students feel. I often do find it difficult to get motivated, but in class, the biggest demotivating factor is not feeling valued by my teachers.

      I will be going to university next year, and often wonder if I’ve been conditioned to work under others’ expectations to such an extent that I’ll struggle to find the inner drive needed when I reach the workforce. Perhaps it’s true, and perhaps it explains partly the vast self-help market today. If I’ve learnt anything this year that I will carry through in my life, no matter what, it’s the value of having a positive attitude. I believe that ultimately, positivity is conducive to ‘falling in love with boredom’. I think that the combination of feeling valued by teachers and learning in a positive, upbeat environment is the key to happy and motivated students, and thus the key to happy and motivated adults in the future. :-)


      P.S. Thank you James!

      • Deborah Owen says:

        Laura, I wish you all the best in college/university next year! You are the same age as my youngest child, who has struggled with the lack of relevance that he has found in his studies up to now. He is finally being able to take some courses that match his long-term goals and interests, so this year is a lot better, but it has been frustrating for him. He is looking forward to going to college next year in order to study what HE wants to learn!

        The fact that you take the time to read James’ blog says a lot for you being a thoughtful, intelligent young woman. I am sure you will be just fine! And I will continue to work to help my students find joy in learning by keeping it relevant to their lives.

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Deborah. And thanks for the work that you do as a teacher.

      I don’t claim to have any answers for motivating young students in school, but I’ll keep doing my best to provide useful ideas each week.

      Thanks for taking the time to read.

  11. Wayne says:


    Thank you James. Absolutely amazing! I have been trying to concentrate on doing small, consistent, daily steps. This not only reinforces that but adds a whole other dimension, a whole new light on the subject.

    Thank you again – you have some incredible information here. One thing that I really enjoy about this site is how you bring athletics/working out into the conversation about habits and success.


    • James Clear says:

      Thanks Wayne. I love connecting my experiences as an athlete with my interest in behavioral psychology and habit formation, so it’s great to hear that you enjoy that connection as well.

      Thanks for reading!

  12. Hi James,

    I am really very attached to your blog. I look forward to receiving it. It has inspired me to start writing and now I already have 5 posts — I have begun once a week. Thanks for making our lives better and taking time out for these words of wisdom. I am sure so much good must be happening everywhere.

    • James Clear says:

      Nice work, Manoj! Congrats on launching your site.

      I’m glad you’re finding my work useful. I’ll do my best to keep good ideas coming your way.

  13. Felicia says:

    Hi James,

    TGIF! Thanks so much for the inspiring piece which you have written — to manage boredom and to love it! Totally awesome, I’m definitely looking forward to read more of your pieces.

    Cheers to everyone and have a lovely weekend! :)

  14. Joan Nemeth says:

    I’m reminded of the hours that it takes for musicians to practice, to not be bored with the runs, re-runs, and repetitions, to feel emotions when there seems to be nothing to emote for. Being fresh and fully committed each and every time, there by yourself with no one watching, urging you on. It’s you with you!

    The only thing I know is this… it pays to stay the course, to pay your dues in full, so that when the time comes you surpass your own expectations.

  15. Mani says:

    Great one! As if you read my inner heart dilemma. Thanks.

  16. Joel says:

    I’m in the process of a major life direction change. I recently saw your article “Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready” on the Thiel Fellowship’s Facebook page and gave it a read. I have been reading a lot of your stuff since then and just wanted to say, “Thank You.” Your articles are prudential without arrogance and maintain a relatable, fluid, and relevant course.

    With that being said, “Thanks!”

    • James Clear says:

      Oh wow. I didn’t know about the Thiel Fellowship sharing my work. Thanks for the tip, Joel.

      And, of course, I’m glad you’re enjoying my writing. I’ll do my best to keep good ideas coming your way.

  17. Peter says:

    Another great article by James Clear.

    It’s what people don’t want to hear and what people need to hear–real change consists of the doing some ‘every damn day’ :-) , the stubbornness of taking the next positive action according to your planned behavior change. “You become what you do everyday.”

    Over the past two (2) years or so, I’ve been looking to make a career change and to get into the programming field. At my recent job I sat near a lady who complained and pouted every week about her lack of career advancement, but if you gave her suggestions she’d get excited for a day or two, and then a month later nothing had been done. On the other hand, I stubbornly committed to spending at least an hour every day–even when that meant staying up late, or when I didn’t like it–trying to learn programming. Now I’ve been through several online classes and have been admitted to a software “bootcamp” and, being ahead of some folks in the class am able to help them out. Unfortunately, that lady was still pouting and complaining, and waiting for a miracle, the last I checked.

    A stubborness on the right-activities gets you life change.

    • Michael says:

      Go for it Peter. I did the same years ago and have not looked back. If you would like to share stories we can make arrangements.

  18. Jolita says:

    Love this letter. I have been implementing several ways to embrace boredom and have less stimulation. Well, this week, I was able to lose two pounds, still managed to get to the gym twice, caught up on paperwork and read lots of material I am committed to finishing. Paradoxically, it has all been very stimulating!

  19. Shawn says:

    Hey James,

    Just wanted to drop by and say two things:

    1) Thanks for writing this article. I’ve also started to slowly realize the point that you’re making, but this article was really great for both reminding me of it and really helping solidify the idea.

    2) I like how, at the end of each of your articles, you try to tie in how your overarching point can apply to many different situations. It really helps tie the theoretical to the practical.

  20. Nurmirafudin Nordin says:

    Beautifully written. Just the exact reminder I need to get me through the tough times I’m currently facing. Keep up the good work!

  21. Soniya says:

    I read your posts regularly and I love them.

    I am curious as to how you manage to answer all the possible doubts people face. I can relate to almost all the articles you write.

    Thanks for your posts.

  22. Sepide says:

    “Fall in love with boredom.”

    Thank you James.

  23. Rina says:

    This is all I need to read today. Thanks for this.

  24. Derek says:

    Consistently amazing work. Thanks for your insight James.

  25. wonderful James… just what I needed to stay focused… to keep on at it, consistently…

  26. Girija says:

    Today, I was feeling very low and it’s true that no matter what you need to keep on moving.

  27. Miranda says:

    Absolutely loved this post, James. It’s somewhat ironic to say the concept of accepting boredom brings motivation, but the collected anecdote above certainly proves it. Thank you. I needed to hear that message today.

  28. Melissa Tomlinson says:

    Goodness… I have nothing to add beyond the comments already made. With this exception — when are you going to start traveling to the west coast and hold motivational seminars?? Seriously. Olympia-Seattle, WA area please!!! Stat.

  29. Mandar Rasaikar says:

    Awesome article again!

    James knows actually what goes on when someone keep some goals and starts chasing them and that makes all the difference! No big Gyan! No Buzzwords and No Philosophies. Its pure practicle tips James provides.
    Keep it up James!

    Mumbai, India

  30. Cathra Dale says:

    You are so right. Great timing.

    Thank you.

  31. Sandeep Kumar Bethi says:

    Really well put. Thanks James. :)

  32. Michelle says:

    Awesomely simple and effective, thanks James

  33. Gayle says:

    I’m reading this on a Friday morning after a an especially unmotivating and frustrating week at work. This post was a kick in the rear to remember what matters.. Thank you! I never thought I would enjoy posts like this but your simple sincerity really comes through and is very helpful

  34. Nitish Singh says:

    I would like to add a comment which I heard in an event. “Don’t be motivated, be disciplined”. That could be another way to overcome your boredom. It is possible that you don’t feel always motivated to do a particular task and you might end up losing interest in that task but, if you are disciplined no matter what, you will begin to fall in love with that work.

  35. Jonny says:

    Thanks! I needed that.

  36. Adrian says:

    Another great article. Glad I signed aboard. I really needed this one.

  37. San says:

    Great article. I love the last part where you bring it back to “building the identity of someone who does the work.” I have heard you mention it several times.

  38. Mihir Semwal says:

    Simple, yet powerful analysis for success. Kind of easier said than done.

  39. Bev says:

    Well said and perfect timing. I needed to hear that today.

  40. Just wanted to say simply Thank you! Beautiful article! :) I really enjoy reading your articles!

  41. Navs says:

    Hey James,

    Really great article. I remember when I freshly graduated I was super excited about starting work. I didn’t even realize when I let my petty bosses rule my life and ruin my spirit. I guess it was the boredom from lack of appreciation that led me to keep switching jobs taking vacations and basically throwing my five year plan away. I hope to not get this in my way again!

  42. Alyssa says:

    This is a great post. Pushing through the hard work and boredom. Fall in love with the process! It makes me evaluate the things I want the most- do I really want to fall in love with what it takes? Thought provoking.

  43. Patrick says:

    Simple brilliance.

  44. Michael says:

    This article come not have come at a better time. I have been struggling the past 10 days with what I would characterized as a lost of inspiration and not necessarily boredom. Working, working, working but not seeing the results. Only more work on the horizon. Thanks for proposing a shift of outcomes from results to process. I often wondered if my ebbs and flows were mine alone, as the general perception of success is one of endless passion and motivation all the way to the finish line. Now I know better!


  45. Peter Eigbiremonlen says:

    You are doing a great job. Keep it up.

  46. Tizgowere says:

    I have enjoyed reading this article and I am really benefiting a lot from you. Keep on the good work!

  47. Gracie says:


    Really needed this, especially now that I just started college and I’m loaded with reading and need to stay focused.

  48. Babar Javed says:

    Thanks for a great distillation of the power principle. Your words remind me of the essence of the Bhagavad Gita: do the right thing, regardless of outcome. Also the words of a survival expert from British Columbia: “Pay attention every day,and the future will take care of itself.”

  49. Beatriz says:

    Thank you so much for this e-mail! It is said that the right words arrive at the right moment. Or at least when one is ready to understand them. That´s my case. I feel boredom on weekends because though I have the chance of beginning something I have no obligation to finish it. So, I can stop it at any moment (and that´s what I do).

    Working days don´t let me choose. What I have to do must be done! Fortunately, I am gifted with a job that I love too much, that´s why it´s easy to be focused on it.

  50. James

    I subscribed to your blog about two months ago after reading one of your articles on the Buffer Blog. I look forward to your articles every week.

    You’ve had a number of articles which really hit the mark for me, including your book, “Transform Your Habits”, which I’ve mentioned to some of my personal training clients and used as inspiration for an article. I’ve also mentioned you on my website in relation to your post about plate size and colour as a weight-loss strategy.

    BUT, it is this article that finally prompted me to write to you.

    It’s not that I get ‘bored’ working towards my desired outcomes, rather it’s persisting through the monotonous work (like understanding AdSense code, or having to make adjustments to 50 pages of a website because I made a small mistake).

    It’s this persistence that allows me to have more freedom to be creative, i.e. when I’ve done all the grunt work, or learned what I needed to learn to get from point D to point G, then I can recognize that this boring/monotonous/necessary work/task is ABSOLUTELY necessary to support ‘writing my next page or article’.

    It would be oh-so-lovely to just write – in fact, I’d love to give up my ‘day-job’ so I can do just that. But the reward, as you explained so well, is in the process; all of the process.

    As someone who is also working as an info-preneur, I appreciate and recognize your consistency.

    Keep up the great writing! You are a great teacher.


  51. Jennifer Ayoub says:


    A simple gem of a reflection on why we should fall in love with our boredom, and discover the love of process. Giving the reasons why motivation doesn’t work only by itself, that it is a spark but not the kerosene that adds to the bright flaming bonfire of the dream or vision we have to transform into our reality to change the world.


  52. I absolutely love this! Thank you for writing it!


  53. Lucas Arruda says:

    The pro wants it so bad that (s)he’s willing to go thru all years of boredom until he gets all the results.

    For me, that’s the difference between needing (pro) and wanting (amateur). Or similarly, committed vs involved [1].


  54. Clem says:

    Doing the boring, mundane, repetitive things everyday are what makes greatness. When I feel unmotivated and don’t want to work then I know that I am at the crossroads of success and failure. I say that you should look for the dull things to do first everyday, because motivation comes from dealing with them. If it was easy success wouldn’t be worth having!

  55. Kim says:

    Very inspirational reading James!

    I feel like I’ve had a stark wake up to reality on some of the shields (excuses) I have seemingly been hiding behind…and holding myself back!

    Thank you for the simplicity and clarity to enable me to make some positive changes and acceptances in areas where needed

    I will certainly be do some thorough reading through your site when I have the opportunity to do so…


  56. Carla says:

    Hello James!

    Greetings from Montevideo, Uruguay, South America.

    This article is truly inspiring! I will make sure to have it always present in my search of my dream job!

    Good go!

  57. Monica says:

    I saw this on Huffington Post, then again on LinkedIn. It’s like the universe was trying to tell me something. This is an awesome, inspiring article that actually got me motivated to do something about my circumstances!

  58. Karen Augustine says:

    This is really inspiring, James…I wish to be a writer like you one day and as you said “If you want to be a great writer, then having a best-selling book is wonderful. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of writing.” And here I am. :-)

    God Bless!!!

  59. Tom says:

    Success is really just a habit! And a habit is just a routine! You have to add novelty sometimes, but the vast majority of your work will be the same thing day in and day out. Keeping that goal of that single event (accomplishment) will probably keep you striving for it and toughing it out.

  60. Junaid Abdul Wahid says:

    I’m from Pakistan! What a man you are James. Full of visionary thoughts! I regularly read your articles and, you know what, I feel improvement in myself by applying your thoughts! Thanks.

  61. Ram says:

    This article is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for this!

  62. Steve says:

    I came across this article when I was looking for a particular quote (which I didn’t ultimately find), amidst doing some work for my master’s degree. The particular work I was doing was tedious and boring but essential to the overall project I signed on for, which I like very much in general. I read, “It’s the ability to work when work isn’t easy that makes the difference.” just when my motivation was beginning to flag for the night. After reading that text, and then the full article, I proceeded to finish the chunk of work that I set out to do at the beginning of the night. Thanks for the motivation.

  63. Prashant Thakkar says:

    Great thoughts. Changed my approach.

  64. Dee says:

    I know I’m late, but I am so thankful for this. I’ve been studying for years and could never seem to get studying right. I was digging for motivaion and passion which was not there and was confused as to if this is what i should be doing/studying. This article clarified a lot of things for me, and I am truly thankful. God bless!


  65. Tad Harden says:

    James, I found your site through Entrepreneur about a week ago, and have been absorbing your articles as fast as I can. I attend a morning coffee with a start up community group in my home town and I end up recommending your site to almost everyone I talk to. Your articles appeal to literally everyone so it’s never hard to work your subject matter into a conversation. Keep up the writing we’re listening!

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks Tad! It’s great to have you reading. I really appreciate the support and I’ll do my best to keep useful ideas coming your way.

  66. Wendy says:

    Thanks James, as I was looking for articles related to academics. I felt bored. I even doubt myself whether I could do it or not. Upon reading this article. I get to know that not only me who is suffering from boredom, but people around he world as well. This article is really an inspiration for me!

  67. Dee says:

    Awesome post James! Everything you said is so true.

  68. Fornik Tsai says:

    Although sometimes I’m tired of writing, but I enjoy the feeling that express emotions in the text.

  69. Martin says:

    This is goooood! Thank you so much, James. I have been enriched.

  70. Jeniz says:

    Great article sir. Very useful. Thanks.

  71. Manmohan Baluni says:

    James, it is really true, we all know the great people have this ability to live the life of greatness every single day. We need to practice this on a daily basis so that whatever our individual goals are, we slowly move towards it. I would like to share an example, today morning, I was watching TV show ” So you think you can dance”, when I watched that show, I realise, how hard these participants work on each and every single step and when they perform, it looks so smooth and flawless, but to perform at this highest level, one need to practice and practice so that it comes naturally, when they perform on the highest level. This is really very inspiring. We need to do the same, every single day, so that it comes naturally to us as well.

  72. M says:

    Thank you for this — it is actually really sound advice! Feel your emotions but don’t allow boredom or de-motivation to get in the way of your ultimate goal.

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