In God We Trust


A baby boy, God’s gift to Sandy and me.

He will be traveling in the air, on land and sea.

Hugging him daily ’til he rides out of sight,

Knowing someday he may stand to fight.

His duty has become for right and freedom,

Brings tears to our eyes, he is our son.

Semper Fidelis his motto ever more,

Faithful to God, Country, Family and the Corps

We pray to God each dawn to dusk,

Watch over our son, dear God we trust.

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Reading an article by Summit Ministries brought to my attention the importance of questions. Questioning may be a defining characteristic of leadership verses kingship. At least this appears to be true in my mind.

The King speaks in statements:

  • I don’t want to hear that.
  • That is not true.
  • It doesn’t matter what you or anyone else thinks.
  • You are wrong.

The Leader communicates with questions (From the Summit Ministries article):

  • What do you mean by that?
  • How do you know that is true?
  • Where do you get your information?
  • What happens if you’re wrong?

The opportunity to ask verses making a statement provides a leader with advantages:

  • Hearing a different perspective
  • Gathering information to affirm or dispel what is known
  • Establishes open communication within the organization
  • Increases situational awareness
  • Acknowledges and validates others
  • Provides opportunity for growth and learning which cuts both ways
  • Develops critical thinking skills

Michael Hyatt states, “The further you move up the chain-of-command, the less likely it is you will get the truth…If you are a leader in any capacity, you must develop a pipeline for unfiltered feedback.” Mr. Hyatt’s point is filtering occurs in the layers of management, culture, and perceptions. I agree.

Adding to this idea, there are more than external obstacles at work littering the path of information to our ears. We create some of these roadblocks ourselves. Our reactions, our busyness and inattention relays a message that I am not interested, it is unimportant, or “I am king.” Mr. Hyatt uses questions to clear the street.

Michael Hyatt’s questions:

  • What do you like about [your organization’s name here] and want to see us continue?
  • What do you not like about [your organization’s name here] and want to see us stop doing?

These are similar to questions asked in emergency response debriefings called “Hot Washes” (“Tail-board Talks” in the fire service).  These take place after emergency responses all over the US, and possibly around the world. This questioning as represented in a book titled, “Crew Resource Management for the Fire Service” by Labnau & Okray:

  • What did you do?
  • What went wrong?
  • What went right?
  • What are we going to do about it?

Questions, if presented well, can alter our response to our employees. Presented well means strategic, significant and civil curiosity and not inquest. Good questioning can force a different pace and cause us to process what we are hearing. Asking pertinent questions requires listening, thinking and time for an answer. Steven Covey, “The Eight Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness,”  says, “With people fast is slow and slow is fast.”

While putting this post together I took a break and walked out my front door. I was “noticin’ and wunderin,’” a Texas thing picked up from Mike Roberts. I observed a young lady pushing a stroller with what appeared to be a 2 or 3 year old.

Mom stopped the stroller in front of my neighbor’s house and ambled into the yard. She plucked a petal from a bloom on the Magnolia tree growin’ there. She walked back to the child and extended the petal toward the little girl. The girl reached out and took it.

“What is it?” the mom asked. I heard only a pause being unable to hear the response.

“What color is it?” Again, I heard silence. Then, “What does it smell like?” Quiet. “What does it feel like?” More conversation gap. “What shall we do with it?” The little girl discarded the petal and watched it flutter to the ground. Questions.

General Norman Schwarzkopf.

General Norman Schwarzkopf. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a video, I cannot find with Google and YouTube, called “Take Charge” highlighting Norman Schwarzkopf, the General speaks of knowing organizational priorities. He performs an informal test and asks his direct reports what they believed were the top organizational priorities. He says he was affirmed. He extends his inquiry and asks the next level of officers and he claims, “I was surprised.” Questions.

Similar to the “Pizza with the Prez” which Michael Hyatt uses, I enjoy taking peers, direct reports and others out for lunch, to make customer site visits or to play “what if.” What if is a great game for emergency responders where you drive to a structure or facility and ask, “What if…a tornado, fire, flood, collapse happened here, what would we face; what would we do?”  More questions.

Along the way I inject other questions. Here are some:

  • What are organizational priorities for today?
  • What are your priorities for today?
  • How do they match organizational priorities?
  • What one thing can I do today that will help you achieve these priorities?
  • Who can we connect with to help us achieve these priorities?
  • What do you see that I am missing?

Here are some more queries I use taken from the book “First Break All the Rules:What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Buckingham and Coffman:

  • Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  • Do you have the equipment and supplies to do your job correctly?
  • Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best when you are at work?
  • In the last week have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care about you as a person?
  • Is there someone here that encourages your development?
  • Do you feel your opinions count?
  • Does the mission/purpose of make you feel your job is important?
  • Are your co-workers committed to doing quality work as you are?
  • Do you have someone you can confide in here?
  • Has someone talked to you about your progress here in the last six months?
  • Do you feel you have had opportunities to grow in the last year?

Maybe while we are “Managing By Walking Around,” from “In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters (I think), we could try “Leading By Asking Around?”

How are you leading with questions?

Please share with us the questions you are asking?

Resources and Related links:

Summit Ministries –

Four Ways Supervisors Frustrate Their Employees –

20 Questions to Ask Other Leaders –

Knowing the Difference Between Players and Pretenders –

The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership –

Mike Roberts –

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There never seems to be enough weeks in a day. A friend’s blog post, Over-stimulated, cause me to reflect on the ever constant competition for our time. She shared her happiness of being a mom, wife and young woman. Her expression was not unusual at the busyness of activity and the ability to absorb or savor each second. We are blessed to watch this energetic family grow.

Scarcity is an economic term which seems to apply here. Less availability translates into greater value. But would it be so wonderful to live with Willy Wonka at the Chocolate Factory where there is, “So much time and so little to do?” Would living in an abundance of time cause us to disregard its value as we often lose sight of the significance of air or water?

As parents, and even as not, there is an endless “bucket list” of joys the world has to offer. If we live here it would be fun to be there. When we are experiencing this, our thoughts wander off to missing that. As we tire we seek to relax yet soon enough we are in want of new things to go and to do. Spending time with family and friends we long for moments alone.

Satisfaction is supposedly found in balance. A balanced diet, balanced schedule, balanced family, balanced budget and balanced career; in effect we are seeking a balanced life. Have you arrived? Take a moment and ponder the concept of balance in any aspect of your life. What does that look like to you? Will that appear healthy to me? We may disagree.

Have you ever watched funambulism (rope walking)? Some of the performers use tools for balance, others none; some are on tight rope and others on slack rope. The wire may be a few feet off the ground to hundreds of yards from the surface. What they all have in common is a degree of risk at a complete loss of equilibrium, a fall. I say complete loss as there are moments of temporary instability. Remaining on the wire regardless of a waver or wobble is success.

Our children and grandchildren will grow up and away. Parents age and pass to us the responsibility of their legacy. Our intimate relationships with our mates are bound by shared endeavors, tragedy, sacrifice and reminiscences. Friends come and go. Work is always existent.  What are we to do?

Life is full of trade-offs. Prioritize as we may, and we should, there will always be opportunity loss. We will miss out on something with someone which would have provided delight and memories. All we can do is to strive to choose well, be where we are, and find contentment in the encounters we are given. It reminds me of a poem attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt by many web sources.

Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.

Many people will walk in and out of your life,
but only true friends leave footprints in your heart.
To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.
Anger is only one letter short of danger.
If someone betrays you once, it is his fault;
if he betrays you twice, it is your fault.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people. He who loses money, loses much;
he who loses a friend, loses much more; he who loses faith, loses all.
Beautiful young people are accidents of nature,
but beautiful old people are works of art.
Learn from the mistakes of others.
You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
Friends, you and me. . . you brought another friend. . .
and then there were three. . .
we started our group. . .
our circle of friends. . .
and like that circle. . .
there is no beginning or end. . .
yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift.
That is why they call it the present.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

What suggestions do you have to juggling time and relational resources?


Sources: (accessed May 13, 2012) (accessed May 13, 2012)

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This morning we had a deluge with thunder and lightning. Posts on Facebook from friends in the area ranged from 4.5 to 10.5 inches of rain over night. It all quieted down about 06:30 and by 08:00 a group of wonderful people assembled in a neighboring city to scrape and paint a house. The ground was a bit soggy but big ol’ Mr. Sunshine was already at work.

“Hearts and Hammers” is a program which our church partners with on various home repair projects. We had a group of about 15 to do the tasks required. We set about armed with the necessary scrappers, wire brushes and ladders. Within a few hours we traded scrapers for paint brushes, rollers and trays of yellow paint.

Lunch time arrived with sandwiches, chips, water and cookies. A break from the job was welcome. A breeze had picked up drying both the mud and the new color. As we ate a dump truck stopped and a man asked to purchase some of our tools. He was thinking we were having a yard sale. He was disappointed and left.

Returning to the house we would occasionally step back and look at how much brighter the new color was making the house. Now for a lime green trim color. Several of our painters questioned the shade and wondered if it would dry darker. Our homeowner was satisfied.

As the last touches were applied it was obvious that those who had not surrendered early were weary from the activity. Well done friends. A gift to a stranger in the form of a day of labor.  What a good feeling.

We humans have needs from time to time which they cannot overcome. How are you doing today? Do you have some troubles which are overwhelming? Take a vacation from it. Find someone with a problem that you can fix. It may not solve your difficulty yet it will for a short time and allow a fresh take of your situation.

There is some new science presented in an ebook, “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders,” by Srinivasan S. Pillay which shows that worry seems to affect our ability to think through our woes. I think we already suspected this to be true. Ancient writers also document wisdom for dealing saying that we should not worry. Focus on aiding another and you may find the cure you need.


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I just finished reading a blog post, “How to Miss a Childhood,” by Hands Free Mama which cuts a little at our “new” connectedness. She addresses how mobile devices provide us so many wondrous distractions that we miss presence. We miss seeing our children grow as the moments of their lives are played out in our physical proximity and our distraction attraction. “All it takes is one child and one phone and this tragic recipe can be yours.” (Stafford, 2012)

Misplaced attention may not be immediately dangerous to life and health as distracted driving may be yet it is harmful. It can kill a relationship. There are few things so disrespectful, in my opinion, than to disregard someone who is in your presence. Pavlov’s bell rings in our pockets and we salivate. Hmm. I am guilty. I have been guilty even without the phone and owe my wife and kids many apologies.

I peer into the vehicle beside me. I see three people encapsulated together in isolation. Each occupant has a mobile device in their hand, a slight head tilt forward or to one side, a reflected glow on their face and one with wires in her ears. Similar observations can be made from adjacent tables in the restaurant, at the conference table and in the classroom. I have witnessed an upper level manager lose respect by repeatedly calling meetings and spending much time answering his phone. It is sad to hear someone in the next stall of the restroom, talking, and I can only suspect the behavior goes into the bedroom.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo F. Buscaglia quotes) What does the body language say to those who are with us when our eyes are on the mini screen? “Please excuse me, this is important and I need to get it,” sends an implied message. It says, “You are less important to me than this phone (call, text, application).”

Have you considered the implications of your mobile technology use? Is it possible to measure the impacts on your spirituality, marriage, family, friends and co-workers? Are there other long term affects than possible irradiation of our brains and debilitating injury from and automobile crash?

I watched a TED Talk last week by Sherry Turkle which was similar in context to the blog post from Hands Free Mama. Turkle says, “..that people are so used to being short changed out of real conversation…that they become…willing to dispense with people all together…someday…Siri will be like a best friend…That feeling that no one is listening to me makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.” (Turkle, 2012) Hopefully that rings a bell other than Pavlov’s, an alarm bell.

Why is having a techno relationship a bad thing? According to Turkle, “We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves…a flight from conversation…can compromise our capacity for self-reflection…a skill for self-development.” She goes on to observe, “We expect more from technology and less from each other.” (Turkle, 2012) This seems like Sci-fi to me. I don’t really like Sci-fi all that much.

These recent discussions on technology and connectedness give me hope we are finding a new awareness to the “old world.” I would like to think we are. There is a chance can go back to a place where people matter more.

I have never owned a smart phone. Recently I have wanted to join the “connected” crowd. I am again, unsure about this path to distraction. Does distraction lead to destruction of relationships? Can we be distracted from our own thoughts and lose the capacity of self?

What does your technology use say about you? What is your trade-off, what are the real costs?


Works Cited

Leo F. Buscaglia quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved May 8, 2012, from

Stafford, R. M. (2012, May 7). How to Miss a Childhood. Retrieved May 8, 2012, from Hands Free Mama:

Turkle, S. (2012, April). Talks: Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? Retrieved May 8, 2012, from TED:

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What are the great questions of life?

Are there answers to them?

Are the answers correct?

I was listening to a book today. It is an audio book. The title and author are not pertinent to this simple post. I just like to read or listen to books a few times a year which will challenge my beliefs, philosophy and perspectives.

This is a memoir and exceptionally well written. This person lives a life based on very different assumptions to those I hold true. This is an alternative perspective for me. It opposes my world view. I have heard that “Where you sit determines what you see.”

Do you do take challenges with your thoughts, values and ideologies? Please share.

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Rule of 3s

The Rule of 3s is a rule of thumb about survival. Your survival is in jeopardy after:

3 Seconds without the right attitude;

3 Minutes without air;

3 Hours without shelter

3 Days without water;

3 Weeks without food;

3 Months without an internet connection.

In the United States, we have come to take much for granted. It is readily available, free or cheap. Yet we should never take the Rule of 3s for granted. It is easy to assume just another day and mayhem strikes leaving us in the middle of a blizzard or an earthquake. Shelter in the blizzard is a vital need. Buried under rubble we can slowly suffocate. Air, shelter, water and food are physiological needs for survival.

The highest of the priorities, attitude, is different from the physiological needs. It is both spiritual and physiological. It drives your emotions, your actions and your “want to.” It is the dwelling place of hope or the home of despair.

Attitude is the outward reflection of an internal expectation. Beliefs, values, character, and experiences influence our attitude. Yet, the direction our attitude takes is based on our decisions and actions. A person with a persevering or expectant attitude can do and will do what is best for their team, their family and themselves regardless the challenge. A positive attitude is about hope, and “hope will not fail us” if we believe ancient holy writings.

Survival training is about more than knowledge of the environment and little tricks. It is about an attitude of doggedness. Firefighters train to this attitude. It is ingrained there is a way through or out of any situation; we need only to find it. Would you want a rescuer with a different point of view? It is said, “If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, either way you are correct.”

My wife and I went through a very tough spot in our marriage. I was meeting with a mentor and I expressed I didn’t feel love for her any more. This was my introduction to “fake it until you make it.” He helped me discover that love is a decision which creates emotion and not the other way around. My mentor showed me how my attitude could be changed one step at a time by pretending.

Dick E. challenged me to make coffee for my wife every morning as a small step toward learning to love her again. This was because he knew I hate coffee breath and she loves coffee. It was a simple 30-day challenge. There was an amazing transformation as she responded to the coffee. I found new joy in learning how to make better coffee to realize the delight in her face. That was 14 years ago in our 31-year-old marriage. I love her.

Earl Nightingale presents the finest discussion of attitude I have heard in his audio series, “Lead the Field.” He calls attitude “The Magic Word.” Mr. Nightingale claims, “First, it’s your attitude at the beginning of a difficult task that, more than anything else will bring about its successful outcome. Secondly, your attitude, towards others determines their attitudes toward you.” There is much more wisdom in the series about directing your attitude that I can present here.

“Fake it until you make it.” This is a strategy that says, “Claim it.” Be positive about life, it is your decision.  Start with a smile. It is like taking a step, you just do it. So it is forced. It may look false but do it. Slowly you will notice others reacting differently toward you. They are smiling back at you. They may laugh at that funny smile but you made a happy moment in their life. Solutions will come a bit easier as you face them with cheer and new-found friends will gather to help you.

What do you need to conquer? First put on that smile. What is the next step?


P.S. (Can you post script to a blog?)

Some quotes on attitude from some of my friends:

  • “We do what we believe.” – Dave Rathcamp
  • “You’re not dead ‘til you quit fighting; when you quit fighting, you’re dead.” – James Rieder

And some other’s:

  • “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou
  • “Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

A blog I felt presents the right attitude:

“Walking in Sunshine” – Genie Speaks

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Everyone has one….

Wife and Nephew

It has encounters, dreams, moments, losses, and things. In it there are achievements, betrayals, joys, and failures. Everyone, no matter how rich, how poor, how old or how young, everyone has a story. It may be long or short, told or unheard, it is a story; it is their story.

I have heard the details of some of these stories, but only chapters or moments. A person’s life can never be fully known except for the knowledge of the Creator. We are not even aware of all the details of our own saga. Our story impacts those around us and they see behind us.

Two Olympic gold medalists have shared bits of their story with me; they tell of intensity of training and being a little different. My step-sisters have spoken of the events of their children; they have joys and struggles which most parents know. I was privileged to the discussion of two bed bound patients in elder care, one African-American and the other Native-American, on which people had suffered the greatest at the hand of the white man. A military officer has acknowledged in my presence decisions which ended the lives of his men through the tears in his eyes.

I have observed many moments, and you have too. I saw my uncle Ron learning to walk, he learned to walk several times as an adult, once after an injury and again after both knees were replaced. I proudly watched my son beaming as the youngest bicycle rider to complete a 160-mile bicycle ride and as he received his Master of Science at Aggieland. I was there to witness a mother when she first learned that the covered body in the car bent against a utility pole was her daughter. I have experienced many pieces of other people’s stories.

One of my greatest lessons in empathy was from a man, Larry S., who was facing a tough time in his marriage. His his wife had, two years before, been in an automobile accident leaving her with the capacity of a child. I expressed that I did not know how to relate to his experience. He provided me with this, “We can always relate to another person. You too have a worst thing that has ever happened to you; we all have. Nothing else is needed; it is the worst thing that has ever happened.”

Tell me, do you see the passages of history in the wrinkles of the old woman sitting in a wheelchair? What is the last paragraph in the mean eyes of the bully; is this a reaction to an unresolved episode? What of the mug shot on the nightly news crime report, is it anything more than a sound bite of a life? What prompts the smiling movie star, is it the joys of success or a hidden tale of guilt? Could it be that you are witnessing a moment and not the whole account? Is there “more?”

Stephen R. Covey, in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” writes of a space between stimulus and response. It is here, he says, we can take time to think. What might we think? Maybe we could think about the person in front of us? What has the day brought them as input to their story? How has that affected them? And yesterday?

What is your “worst thing?” What is your best experience? Have you ever laughed, spilt, lied, smiled, tripped, or cried? What then is your favorite, scariest, or funniest thing to have ever happened to you?

I believe we are all created in one image, a common likeness. If this is true, then we should look to see this family resemblance in each face. We should know that we can relate, if we try.


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Want to…

“You gotta want to! You gotta want it!” Many of us have heard this from parents, coaches, mentors and the ever present guru. “You can be anything you want to be. You can have anything you want to have.”

Just the other day I listened to a friend, Brenda R., explaining “relaxing” black women’s hair. She stated it was the same process white women use to get a “perm” to make their hair curly. She went on that black women have kinky hair and white women have straight hair and both want what they don’t have. That is what Brenda said. Hmm. Okay, before I get sexist, men seem to have much the same problem though in different areas of interest.

I suggest we have plenty of “want.” I want to eat ice cream. I want a lean, fit and svelte body. I want to stay out all night. I want to have an income which supports my party and my ice cream. We have enormous amounts of “want.” Why don’t we have?

Is more than “want” needed? If more than “want” is needed then what is missing? I have pondered this with my simple logic.  According to my recent reading of Thomas Sowell’s “Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One”, (Economics has become my new fascination.) my understanding is that life is about trade-offs. You really cannot “have your cake and eat it too.” The question then becomes, “How do we manage our competing “want?”

My theory is we need to add “more.” Correct, “more.” More helps define priority. I “want” this “more.” I may have been misleading in my introduction since most parents, coaches, mentors and gurus really mean “You gotta want to more than…” In our efforts for brevity, sound bite information, we often just say, “You gotta want to.”

What I have learned in my experience as a trainer is that we act the way we are trained to act. There is a saying which I mentioned in my previous post, “You got to die of something…,” which applies here, “Train like you fight, fight like you train.” While training firefighters we used to allow them to wear their breathing apparatus without fully engaging and breathing from the unit. This is a convenience because, being similar to Scuba equipment, if you actually use it then you must refill it. Yes, a short cut in training which can result in firefighters forgetting to engage their breathing air.

In effect, what I am thinking is that if we repeatedly say “You gotta want to” we are likely to forget the “more.” I want ice cream more than I want a lean, fit and svelte body. Did I get that backward? You be the judge when you see me; the results rarely lie. Without the “more” we become distracted with the “less” and never achieve the “most.” What is it you “want?” Do you want it “more?”



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Got to die of something…

“A man has got to die of something, because it would be a shame to die of nothing,” is a quote from my friend Joey W. What brings this to mind today is a conversation with my youngest son who is considering joining the Marine Corps. He said that the question he still had is knowing how he would deal with someone shooting at him. Not being a military veteran, I could only relate to dealing with fear as a firefighter.

In dealing with high risk, high consequence situations, my thoughts are that you consider what could happen. You think them through very well. Determine the possible outcomes, step by step. Keep asking what if, and then what until you reach the logical termination. Then you reject or accept the consequences. Rejection means you find something else to do, another way. Accepting the consequences means you study well, train hard and practice often. “Train like you fight, fight like you train.” Then focus on the job at hand.

In 1993, I attended a Franklin training seminar “What Matters Most.” I don’t think it was Franklin Covey at that time though Jim Savage was the instructor. He was a former coach, I think an offensive coordinator, for the Washington Redskins. He taught us to establish our values in a written format to reference. He said the principles on which we build our lives are un-perceptively threatened by daily influences. Writing and reviewing these would allow that we could better manage our lives. We could make conscious decisions, to change or not to change, of these precepts and not allow arbitrary evolution. I took his advice.

At one point I reviewed my acceptance of the life and death, and injury, consequences of the choice of my career. It came in line of a series of firefighter injuries and deaths where the risk was to save abandon, vacant buildings, valueless property. Yes, someone will say, “You never know that someone just may be in there.” This was my question, “What would I willingly die for?” Here is my answer, “I would die for my faith, my family, my friends, my foe and freedom.” I also wrote justification for my answer which is more detailed than today’s purpose.

This led me to as another question. I found this next question more difficult to answer. I felt I needed to know. I have this planning background that believes in predetermined actions for predetermined situations. You can expect eventualities then identify and practice the behaviors necessary for survival. My next question was, “What would I kill for?” Here is my answer, “I would kill only for the protection of another person’s life when in immediate jeopardy.”

I remember kissing my wife and babies good-bye the mornings before work and wondering. I get teary eyed thinking about it. How do you know how you will react to a situation? The answer is a question, “How have you prepared yourself?”


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