At the beginning of 2011 we started a campaign called Start Something You Love. We kicked it off on 19th January with our big Esc winter party in front of 600 people at Guanabara bar in central London.

We are now following it up with 365 bits of advice from real people who are doing interesting and inspirational things with their lives.

And we asked them all the same question:


James Johnson – Going Going Bike

Start a business with someone you can rely on. There will be tough times but with a good partner you’ll get through them.

Yannick Roux – From banking to tech start-up founder

Go for it. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.

Archie Brooksbank – Film production entrepreneur

“Assumptions are the mother of all F**K ups!” (Joe Whelen, NZ, 2004)

Learning in the film world is endless so you must be driven to be the best or you will be swallowed up and spat out by what is a cut throat industry.”

Nicko Williamson – Climate cars

The worse place for a small business to be is without cash.

Simon Berger – Perrin Daily Single

Just do it. I’d never thought I could deliver such a cool project on my own.

James McGowan – Paez Espadrilles

If you don’t like your life, change it.

Jackson Williams – Barefoot Runner

Be true to yourself and never stop trying.

Plan in advance, and just try to enjoy the experience, but expect the worst to happen, so it can only get better.

Benjamin French – Arctic cycle

You have to shave your legs and armpits ben its essential in the arctic… I think just being told to be prepared and spend the extra money and time choosing the right equipment was good advice.

Train hard, get the right equipment and make sure you find out exactly what you should be eating and where you can get it. Lack of nutrition can ruin everything.

Al Humphreys – round-the-world cyclist, adventurer

Don’t worry about what other people think. Try your best.

Alastair Vere Nicoll – Adventurer – Riding the Ice Wind

Follow by example. I organised the expedition with another guy – Patrick Woodhead. Patrick sees absolutely no barriers. Everything is always possible to him and he proved to me graphically that that was true. Six weeks before we left, mired in debt, we still had no title sponsorship but we pressed on. The funds actually only finally arrived as we got on the flight to Chile after managing to tie up a deal in the final weeks. If an Antarctic crossing teaches you one thing it is determination!

Andy Welch – Adventure cyclist. Ride Earth.

I would advise that people who want to do it sell everything non-essential to them on ebay, buy a cheap bike, get a compass and start cycling.

Learn by doing.

Nick Weston – 6 months in a treehouse

You aren’t getting any younger, property ladders and settling down happen later in life inevitably. I am now looking to build a proper house to live in long term, but there is no way I am going to fork out £200,000 for someone elses house when I can design and build my own for £30,000!

Do you want to look back at your life in your 30’s and realize it was a series of weekends spent in the city out in pubs etc or weeks spent living your life? Very little in London can be done for free, most things in the countryside cost nothing, life’s simple pleasures come in strange little packages!

Mohini Raichura – Moving from private to public sector

Network, network, network! And be prepared to get your hands dirty and volunteer/intern/shadow people wherever possible.

Victoria Parkinson – Mekong Bamboo

Do it, the sense of achievement is immense!

Roly Bagnall – London banker to Microfinancier in India

Set your sights high, even if they seem unrealistic, then work step by step towards it. It’ll take some time and effort but once you’ve made the leap it all seems worth it in the end.

Guy Edwards – Life at an eco-lodge in South America

One of my old teachers told me that to get ahead these days we need to have something that distinguishes us from the pile.

The work culture and bureaucracy in other countries can be very different. That’s not to say the UK is void of any comparable pitfalls but best to do as much research before leaving on legal or financial matters such as visas, taxes, bank accounts, local customs etc.

James Ramsden – foodie, writer

You’ve got to put yourself out there – email people, call people, talk to people. It’s extraordinary what happens.

The Vogue editor said to me “You want to be a writer? Then write.” Then she called me a stupid twat. But it’s true – so many people have lofty ideas about what they want to do but don’t actually do anything towards achieving them. You’ve got nothing to lose by having a stab at something.”

Katie Jackson – IdeasTap: inspiration for creatives

Writing can be really solitary and you can often feel daunted and alone, but when you actually talk to other writers, or any creative person for that matter, you realise that you all face the same challenges and it makes it much easier to get on with it.

Aggie Jones – How I got a job at Spotify

Chase, chase, chase. If you really want a job you should do all you can to get it. Try any method you can think of.

Be persistent and have a positive mental attitude.

Matthew Glanville – Hospital-building: Iraq & Afghanistan

Most people are very willing to talk about their work/careers and the conversation does not need to have a specific aim.

The more people that you talk to the more you can refine what you want to do.

Weigh up the impact on your friends/family and other areas of your life.

Dave Turner – Getting paid to go on cycle adventures

I really love this quote: “”Don’t ask for a pay rise, ask for a four day week”

Zoe Graham – From luxury marketing to journalism MA

Michael Weise said this to me when I was asking him about his career in film and how to break into that world,  ‘For as long as you can, make it about the art. It should be about expanding your perception and consciousness, not trying to make money’.

My slightly dysfunctional mantra is kind of along the same lines as his: it is better to do something and get it wrong than block yourself from experiences for the sake of mind-numbing security.

Trupti Patel – From Citigroup to Social Finance

Whilst its less risky to plan your next move when still in your current job, sometimes its difficult to think of this next move when you’re working 12-15 hours a day and are completely immersed in that atmosphere. Taking time off to think about it is necessary at times to move beyond the thinking-about-it stage.

Alex Vero – Freelance film-maker & extreme runner

Keep calm and carry on. It’s never as bad as you think.

Find a story, get a camera and go make it happen. Hold the camera still – as long as the story is interesting you can often get away with using a cheaper camera but if you’re shaking all over the place it is unusable. Lay off the zoom!

Stu Kimberley – Fiji Island Life – Tribewanted

The slightest spark is enough to chase a dream.

Simon Jaffery – Ex-PwC now at tech start-up

Just do what it is that interests you. If you open the paper at the weekend and the first section you look at is Technology – thats where you need to be working.

Rob Archer – Ex-mgt consultant career psychologist

The choice life gives you is not about whether or not to have painful thoughts and emotions, the choice is whether you dignify that pain by doing the things that are truly important to you. You can spend your life feeling comfortable but dead inside. Or you can feel anxious yet alive. What will you do?

Do it this way: 1. Begin by identifying as many objective facts about yourself and your future as you can.  2. Generate job options creatively. You have to try and think differently, otherwise you’ll end up doing the same thing as before. 3. Build a vision and make a plan.

Get a strategy for dealing with the anxiety, doubt etc.

Harry Minter – Ex-hedge fund analyst running Mozambique lodge

My dad told me once that I should never let a girl drag me around by my balls. I always thought that was pretty reasonable advice.

Dont give up searching!

These jobs do come up (albeit not before escapethecity existed) and are there for the taking. Dont be afraid that you’re wasting your life away just because you’ll no longer be working for a big company in a suit earning good money. It’s possible to get the best of both worlds and make a decent living whilst doing something you love.

If you’re starting to feel trapped, then get out. Don’t hang around, because before you know it you’ll be a another year older and it’ll be slightly harder to make the break. If it doesnt work out, at least you know you tried.

Rich Darbourne – Ex-corporate theatre producer

This is no dress rehearsal.

Freddie Cobb – Ex-accountant training as a wine-maker

People can’t tell you what to do (apart from maybe my Mum….occasionally), they can only advise you.

Brett Veerhusen – Esc-ing from Seattle bank life

Follow your dreams, as cheesy as that sounds.

Do what you know. Do what you want to know. Do what you love.

Em Bell – Crazy aspiring TV presenter

Dory in Finding Nemo says – “Just keep swimming”

The most likeable people on TV are natural so be yourself… ”

Deanne Cunningham – CBBC

If you’ve got the determination and drive it will happen in the end. Do as much preparation as you can – be focused on your goal and find out as much as possible about your chosen new career

Some jobs sound great but in reality are very different.

Alex Narracott – Much Better Adventures

Make a time frame for your key aims. Then double it. Then double it again and work off that.

Philip Pinnell – Starting ‘Scratch Meals’

Do it. Now.

Robert Welch – Small Car Big City

Everyone will tell you that you’re nuts, try to take it with a pinch of salt.

If you want something badly enough, you will get it.

Do your research and plan as much as possible before.

Don’t kid yourself. Present worst case costings for everything and whatever you are planning to turn over, half it.

Roya Dabir-Alai – Sitting in a tree

Only work with people you really, really trust.

Do not leave your current job until you are absolutely financially secure enough to live for a long time unsalaried.

Whatever projections you make it’s likely to take longer. And living on the edge can force you to make quick fix decisions, rather than thinking more long term.

David Diley – Shark films

I generally live my life on the teachings and wisdom of Rocky Balboa from the Rocky films, in particular “it’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward…”

I am of the belief that if you keep getting up and going back for more, you will ultimately wear your opponent down and emerge victorious. That “opponent” may be just trying to negotiate your way around a receptionist to speak to someone who could actually help you or it could even be the very goal which at first seems impossible, just keep chipping away!

Another bit of advice that I will take to the grave was given to me by the happiest, most content man I have ever met, “the world is full of dreamers and dreamers can only become doers when they dare to take risks…”

Amelia Heaton-Renshaw – Selling jam in Shanghai

Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone about what you’re doing.

Be confident in your product and go out and sell, sell, sell.

Jill Ross – See the Difference

Leadership is very different to management!

To succeed you need a robust business plan and a definite customer need that you can meet.

Start small so that you can learn from real customer behaviour.

Jon Warren – San Sebastian Food

Don’t make excuses for not changing your job. Make change happen.

Try and get some experience in the industry you want to work in before you actually set up the business.

You can’t prepare for these things, they develop as you do them.

Christian Rothhardt – Ruta 60

Build up the business as if it was a franchise. Think big and build the foundations of the company solidly.

Invest as much of your personal wealth so that you are 100% committed.

Put a few slides together outlining the idea and run some numbers to see if it makes broad financial sense.

Then discuss with your 5 best friends and get feedback.

Do your market research and figure out your unique selling proposition.

Hannah Springham – Running TV-related start-ups

Go for it! It will be scary but a bit of that keeps you alive I think. Belief in what you do helps – a bit of passion goes a long way.

Alex McCausland – Running Ethiopian eco-tourism venture

Don’t take everybody at face value – you can’t trust everybody but you have to trust somebody(s), so make the choice carefully!

Teddy Watt – Running a clothing start-up

Never think the business money is your money. When you run the figures and you know exactly how much it will cost you at the highest end….. double it, it always costs more.

The best way to learn about an industry, a product, anything is to get involved in it and do it.

Make sure you have an original idea and that you know your brand.

Rob Wilson – Read International

“Titles are bollocks”, Lara Morgan, 2010

I think this works on so many levels.  Made me want to tear up my own business card that says ‘founding director’ so smugly on it.  Painful!

Mike Stevens and Dan Shrimpton – Peppersmith

Have a clear vision and a set of values and stick to them.

Scott Mason – Parahawking in Nepal

“Do you what makes you happy to do, and you will do right” Juji Krishnamuti (Indian Philosopher)

Richard Thomson – Otto Pizza

The best advice I received was that financial failure wasn’t the end of the world, as long as the lessons learned justified it.

That gave me the confidence to take the gamble.

Will Snell – On running my own social enterprise

Don’t try and do everything at once! Both in terms of levels of ambition, but also in terms of how much you spend at the start (and therefore how much money you need to make it happen).

Oli Guthrie – Running my Oak furniture business

The best advice I have received has been ‘go the extra mile to demonstrate you want to succeed more than the next man.’

Keren Mitchell – The Job Crowd

The same advice that inspired Dom and Rob, from the innocent founders’ book, to “Start. Start Small. But Start”.

One of the most important things for a start-up is to stay flexible and responsive. I think this is vital.

Mathew Chandy – From Linklaters & UBS > Moolis restaurant

In order to succeed in this industry, you have to expect to fail. The fear will make you try that much harder. Plan, plan and plan more.

Lea Woodward – Location Independent guru

Never put all your eggs in one basket.

Tom Pakenham – Leaving the law for green taxis

Don’t expect to have all the answers.

Check that you’re okay with risk – being your own boss is all about taking a risk, so if that gives you nightmares, it’s probably better not to subject yourself to it.

Hannah Cheetham – Learning Chinese medical acupuncture

If there was no money in it would you still want to do it? If the answer is yes…then go for it.

Learning and being part of something you believe in is so much more important than short-term financial security.

Shezmin Madhani – Juggling a Kenyan charity with my job

There are those… who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.”Aga Khan IV

Talk is cheap… When the time is right to take that step you will know, then run with it… Never let people tell you that you are too young to do something, age means nothing…

Lucy Heathcoat Amory – Interior Design

Remain true to what you set out to do and do not give up.

It is tough to set up a business and just deciding to do it and acting on it is something to be proud of.

It is important to have a very clear idea of your business model and company ethos.

People will only buy into you and your product if you understand and believe in it yourself.

Go with your gut instinct.

Charlie Brooksbank – Heli-ski company

Ask your customers (or potential customers) what they want from you as a business, and then give it to them.  So simple, but so important.

Sian Meades – Full-time professional blogger

It’s not so much the advice that’s helpful, it’s the support from others that’s important.

Some people just won’t understand how difficult leaving a stable job is (“you get to sit at home all day doing nothing!”).

But it’s the support from friends that you have to listen to.

Once you leave your job, everyone will have advice about how you should be running your life and your business.

Instead of listening to that, I’ve found it’s always better to listen to the people making sure you still believe that you can do it.

Don’t give up. Keep going. Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you can’t do it (there will be a lot of them, and they’re wrong).

Believing in yourself is so important. So is making sure you still have a life.

So at the end of the day, unless something is absolutely crucial, put the laptop away and go out dancing.

Because as much as you love your job, it’s still work. Having fun is much more… well, fun.

Mark Thompson – From banking to Vida Loca Travel!

“Avalanche – Run, quick!” From a fellow climber when I was climbing the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador. Glad I listened!

Travel if you have the opportunity to do so. I really feel that travel broadens horizons and helps us to understand different cultures.”

Nick Southwell – Freeride skier & film entrepreneur

You only live once so make the most of it and have no regrets.

Make sure you have plan, belief, good people around you, and hit it straight on.

David Gill – Founding Gill Overland


A William Arthur Ward quote: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”

Take the plunge, nothing ever goes to plan, adapt, be flexible and open to all advice.

Tom Rendell – Founder of Open Society

Think very simply about what you’re trying to do and how you’re going to do it.

Don’t think what you ‘could’ do in the future, think about how you’re going to get started and why people need your service.

Do you think Google when starting up said ‘right, we’re going to launch an internet browser, map the world by satellites and create a function that allows you to photographically travel across the streets of major cities internationally’?

No, they said they were going to help people find websites on the internet.

Dom Hall – Educational Publishing > Adventure Travel

If it’s nagged away for long enough at you you have no real choice – so go for it.

Clare Crean – Ex-Virgin running music entrepreneur

Think about your customer first – make sure your product or service is something they want, are prepared to pay for and that you can deliver it in a way that is better or different from competitors.

Keep going.

Sarah Hilleary – Ex-Merrill Lynch food company owner

Don’t ever let desperation cloud your judgement even when things are tight- make sure that you know the value you have created and your worth.

Also – never get too comfortable with your business – always keep developing, refining, improving to maintain your competitive advantage.

Make a commitment. Believe in yourself, trust your judgement, listen to customers, use your intuition.

A big lesson is to learn the ability to pick yourself up when you are at your absolute lowest – it will be a rollercoaster.

Tom Rippin – Ex-McKinsey social entrepreneur

Everyone has a responsibility to have an opinion.

Louisa Blackmore – Ex-Hedge fund worker on starting out alone

The best advice has been to be flexible and open to new ideas and different ways of doing things.

Keep it simple and follow up on every lead – even a chance encounter can go somewhere.

Doug Pether – Ex-corporate founder of sports website

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Kshitij Gheewala – Ex-consultant starting schools in Uganda

Don’t expect immediate results, be patient and just do one thing better, differently every day. It is the journey that matters, not the destination – it is about who you become along the way. Listen to yourself, and trust yourself…there is more power within you than you can imagine.

The real battle is the internal battle.

Dream big, dream bigger than you can imagine, and then become the kind of person that fulfills upon your dreams.

Chris Ubah – Ex-accountant who started

Be focused, determined and believe in yourself.  You will gain a lot from the experience and it is also exciting to do something different.

Have a good balance in your life. Do have a good time but also save as much as you can.

Investors will want to know how much of your hard earned cash you are committing to the venture.

Lee Rotbart – Escape to Cornwall guest-house

Take it one step at a time, don’t think about cooking breakfasts, joining guesthouse associations, and decorating before you’ve even bought the property.

While it’s important to have a vision, try not to think only of the big picture.

If you do it will seem that there are overwhelming amounts of things to do and you won’t be able to do anything.

One foot in front of the other and one step at a time. Easy does it.

Susie Lawrence – Esc Coach Susie on doing her own thing

Remember the importance of building strong relationships – all my work comes from recommendation  – and you have to keep on top of this and keep in touch with people.

Understand yourself first – look at what you do well and what you dislike – are you cut out for being on your own?

Then work hard to build an initial client base for yourself before you leap.

I have been so busy in the last 2 years that I still don’t have a website – watch this space – I wish I had given more time to this – but its very chicken and egg – as of course you want the business too.

Henrietta Ludgate – Entrepreneur – luxury womenswear

It is kind of a family hand-me-down……“From little acorns great oak trees grow” it was the motto of my great grandfather’s department store Gamages.

It costs a lot more to produce in the UK but I highly recommend it as you can rely on a very high quality finish and of course it is also sweat shop free.

Rajeeb Dey –

My dad has always said to me – it is what you achieve at ‘the end of the day’ which is what matters the most.

This is quite a vague saying as on the one hand he uses it when I have some minor achievement to spur me on to achieve greater things; on the other he uses it when faced with adversity to put the situation in context and make me look at the bigger picture.

This is a great work ethos for me as it means you don’t ever settle and strive to constantly improve and keep going – something all entrepreneurs need to do.

Just start it, no matter how the small the scale initially, and be prepared to learn. Tom Ravenscroft Enabling Enterprise

Will Orr-Ewing – Educationist entrepreneur

Keep your integrity.

What – really – is there to lose?

George Burgess – Education iPhone Apps

Recently I’ve sat down with a number of venture capitalists who have all offered some great insight into the VC world.

It’s actually made me question whether raising funds is the best route for EducationApps, particularly as I still want to go to university.

We may be better off keeping the business very small and growing more slowly.

Paul Irvine – Starting DeHouche in Brazil

You have to ask yourself what is the worst that can happen – for me it was that I fail and have to start again, and that was not a good reason for not attempting it.

Kevin Shannon – Cycling around the world

Someone emailed me and told me that ‘when it’s at it’s toughest and you don’t think you can go any further, force yourself to do an extra 5-10 miles!

That way, the good days will feel truly great.

However crazy others (or you) think it is, if you believe in it and youre passionate about it, make it happen.

Christine Liu Lilwall – Starting my own Charity

Try not to give too much weight to people who tell you that it cannot be done…

…there will always be people who are pessimistic / risk averse / or for whatever reason think you’re mad!

Frank Yeung – Burrito Revolution by ex-Goldman Sachs banker

Plan it thoroughly. If it feels right, and you know it’s right, take the plunge and go for it.

Speak to people in the know. Glean them (subtly and politely) for information.

Learn from them. Learn everything you can about your field.

Philip Letts – Blur Group, crowdsourcing

Fund your business through clients not investors – as soon as is practical.

It’s harder than it looks. Practice, practice, practice. (Which could even mean failing three times first).

Annabella Forbes – founder of Bed and Fed

ASK FOR ADVICE!!! really ask anyone and everyone – the man on the bus might have a good idea or your friends younger brother – anyone and everyone!

Also BE ADAPTABLE – businesses do change and adapt all the time – be flexible.

Employ a good web developer from the start.

Jonathan Walter – Accountant surfer & furniture-maker

I lost a great deal of time and a little money through doing insufficient research before diving into certain aspects of the business, spending money on expensive machinery before having a reliable client base, overspending on the wrong kind of marketing, that kind of thing.

With a start-up business it can take longer than you expect to become profitable, but you do need to be patient.

Don’t get bogged down in the what-ifs, you can always find a reason not to do something. Rather be honest in your research, and If it looks like it might work, and you want it to work, well there’s a great chance that it will.

Steve Ellis – The Knowledge Doctor

Never stop learning, the day you do you are totally prepared for… yesterday.

You need to become a ‘learning machine’ in the knowledge world those with the best and most current knowledge win.

Manage your profile effectively.

Be a known player using the web for your publcity, have your own website, blog to raise awareness so that people come to you.

Patrick Cushing – Recycling start-up in Chicago – USA

The only person you need to answer to is the one in the mirror.

Why would anyone continue to do something that had a negative impact on them?

When we touch something hot and burn ourselves, we learn not to touch it, but when we work at a place we don’t like we stil continue to go.

It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Do something you like and you will never work again.

Lizzie Hoare – Leaving recruitment to be a teacher

Really want it – teaching isn’t for the faint-hearted.

It is challenging, exciting and rewarding, but it is also all-consuming and exhausting.

You MUST have passion.

Marina Palmer – Learning to tango in Buenos Aires

Follow your Bliss.

Sarah Wright – Leading adventures in Guatemala

I can’t remember where I first heard this, but it has always resonated with me…

I am sure many people have regrets on their deathbed – wishing that they resolved old conflicts, told somebody they loved them when they had the chance, or spent more time with their partner or kids…

but what person on their deathbed ever said ‘I just wish I’d spent more time in the office!’

Do it your own way.

Henry Machale JP Morgan grad > African photography

If you are going to do something properly – don’t do it half-heartedly.

In order to compete you need to be in the best places, with the best kit – even if its over your budget.

Take all the advice you can even if you don’t agree and then sift though it all and take a middle ground.

Axelle Tessandier – How can we make work more like love?

Do what you are great at, and do it not for being good, but to change the world.

Do something that drives your heart and your soul.

Luck is not chance it’s an attitude.

Harry Dodd-Noble – Going to film school

What is the worst that can happen?

If you want to produce the best way to do it is to produce.

Flo Spelling – From fund management to tech start-up

If you can afford to do it – do it. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried and who knows what doors it will open.

My major fear was not doing it and then regretting it.

Mima JG – Emigrating to Australia!

You can only regret what you haven’t done.

I would definitely say take the plunge, the beauty of moving away is that if it turns out its not for you, you can always go home. If you are sitting at your desk gazing into the dark night- at 4pm, just think it is 29 degrees here now!!

Stacey Lee Kershaw-Brant – Blogging through a London adventure

My mum always told me to never listen to what other people think, I only learned this actually made you happier recently.

All the time I wasted doing things because I thought it would impress others.

I guess that’s why escaping a job, or something that isn’t fulfilling makes you so happy and content even if it is rough.


“You just have to have confidence in your own ability and go for it. Life’s too short! Add up the pros and cons of your current life and compare them with the pros and cons of your future life.


” Richard Cain Moving to Portugal. Podcasting.

“If you’re scared of making a decision about something it’s usually always worth doing.


” Barty Dearden Launching boutique Glastonbury camping

“Always give people the ‘best advice’ even if this will not directly benefit you or your company now, in the long run it will. If there is a better product or service offered by another company which will suit your client better than yours, then they should use it and you should not be afraid to tell them. They will recommend you to everyone they know.`


There is always the opportunity to become the best in your field!” Simon Hudson Innovative property start-up

Just Do It. Oli Marlow-Thomas GoCarShare

“My dad used to say, ‘take risks in life’. I suppose he meant that one shouldn’t just live a humdrum existence if one feels there is more to life.


” Samantha van Dalen Form of Hope

“Enjoy it even when things are difficult.


Be commercial – there’s no point if you’re not going to make enough wedge that the stress of paying the rent outweighs any gains made elsewhere. Keep your overheads low regardless of how much you are making.” Will Holloway All Bagged Up

“Do something you enjoy and keep pushing yourself to do things better. If people say ‘you can’t’ do something, turn it round and ask yourself ‘why can’t I do it?’


When you’re old and withered, and your grandchildren ask you if you have any cool stories, make sure you can give them a good answer…” Dan Howie 3 Wise Handymen


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