How to ace CAT without screwing up your life ?

Most of CAT aspirants are infected with this deadly disease called “One-itis“. Their attention is so fixated only on “MBA” that they don’t even bother to have a look at their otherwise miserable life. Now this is not gross generalization but it’s reality for most MBA aspirants.

I am going to show you how to break through this vicious circle, make best use of your available time, ace CAT and other MBA entrance tests and maintain healthy lifestyle at the same time.

I read this quote long time ago from Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Workweek)

Timothy_Ferriss

When you have money, it’s always smart to diversify your investments. That way if one of them goes south, you don’t lose everything. It’s also smart to diversify your identity, to invest your self-esteem and what you care about into a variety of different areas — business, social life, relationships, philanthropy, athletics — so that when one goes south, you’re not completely screwed over and emotionally wrecked.”

Most students attention is just fixated on one thing i.e. CAT Preparation.

They have no life apart from CAT, their job sucks, they have no social circle, they have absolutely no hobbies.

Their life circles around working 9-6, come back home and prepare for CAT/other entrance tests. Attend classes on weekends or give mocks. Nothing else. Now there is nothing wrong in doing that.

The problem is, this plan doesn’t work for everybody because of some inherent flaws in this plan.

What’s the problem with these aspirants ?

When something screws up with their CAT preparation, their entire life is thrown into complete bedlam.

failure - Copy

 

Forget about the people who advise you to devote single handedly for CAT. That advice doesn’t work anymore for most people, so stop worrying about it, you need to do well balanced preparation because if you do that you will see substantial improvements in your day to day preparation.

How many people you can hand pick and show me who single handedly devoted for CAT and aced it and I will show you at least 10 more students who failed at it using the same formula ?

The reason is we are giving way too much importance to CAT.

We are choosing in which way we want to receive validation to feel good about ourselves

I have a friend who is CA and aspiring lawyer, whenever he meets me or in a company of friends he constantly talks about amendments and acts and what not even when nobody wants to listen to it.

I have few friends who are from Finance background, who constantly talk about I-banking,Trading and Funding.

There are people from start-ups only seem to talk about how awesome their company is, how much funding it received and how awesome their product is.

There is no diversification where they are receiving validation.

When they fail in exam, lose job, company fails, their stability is at risk. I am going to include dozens of strategies to deal with this problem. Make good use of it.

1. Keep back up options

Backup Computer Key In Blue For Archiving And Storage

Numerous students who appear for CAT, don’t keep back up options. Several students enrolled in GD/WAT/PI Revolution, had left their jobs for no good reason and even when they had no back up options. I have written an article about whether you should leave your job for CAT.

Whether you should leave your job for CAT ?

Most students have this ego problem where it seems like keeping back up option in terms of B-schools and jobs is dent in their ego.

They worry too much about what other people think of them.

The reason I am telling you to keep backup options is most students who don’t have back up plans fail or at least fail to get into the b-school where they always wanted to go, most of the times.

They are highly delusional. Here is example of being too inflexible. I knew few people myself who did the following.

  1. I am going to apply to only for IIMs this year. Fail
  2. I am going to apply to only for IIMs this year. Fail.
  3. I am still going to apply to only for IIMs this year. Fail again.
  4. I want to do MBA this year at any cost from any decent college.

People need to be more realistic. If they keep occasional check on their ego and decide to keep back up options based on their potential, they won’t have to face disappointment in the future.

2. Change job/Switch Roles

Most students I talk to,  don’t enjoy things they are working for. MBA or MS is an almost an afterthought.

They think if I just get this MBA, then I can do this. This is called “College Boy” mentality.

They think, if they just opt in for formal program, then somehow their life is going to change. They learn this mentality from their parents, friends, media.

Go to college, get a Degree, become MBA and then their life is gonna deliver rewards on the Silver Platter but it doesn’t work that way.

Only positive point in their life is small hope that “They are at least getting chance to escape their hell by giving chance at CAT/other MBA entrance exams

They constantly lurk on forums/facebook groups venting their frustration out, desperate to get admit, cursing different institutes, ranting nonsense, trying to revive false hope.

Most students confuse CAT as a destination, I am encouraging you to treat it as a journey.

journey not destination

The problem happens when CAT is a destination because you have to bear huge disappointment when you fail to reach your destination. When it’s a journey, you can choose how enjoyable it can get. Your mindset and happiness won’t get affected much if journey is enjoyable.

If you are looking at CAT as a way to escape your current reality then think again. Your main focus should be changing job or switch roles inside the same company where you will get chance to perform more meaningful work and not escape it by giving CAT. I have written a great article about CAT Preparation for Working Professionals

3. Don’t just work for Money

There is a tendency amongst many MBA aspirants to get higher paying job. There is nothing wrong in it. Everybody wants to earn more money. You might have heard this commonly used phrase ” Package Kitna Mila ?” This is so prevalent amongst this crowd.

When I was at your place few years back, I had this same exact problem. I used to compare my salary with my friends and used to get jealous. If I heard someone is making more money than me, I wanted to opt for that job (even when I knew nothing about it)

Once I had a talk with this girl working in Automobile Company who was spewing venom on her boss, super boss and everything, constantly complaining, whining and bitching about it.

I asked her why don’t you just leave the job/change the job. The answer was expected as it is in most cases.

You know, I can’t. I can’t get any job” (because what I did there was nothing but nonsense work which added no value to my resume, so I can’t practically get any good job and I will remain whining, bitching and complaining but not take responsibility for my inaction)

Some of my college friends who got into PSU jobs through campus placements, where salary was high but work was almost monotonous, no value addition. It made these people useless to apply to any jobs outside that company despite good salaries which flat-lined after certain no of years and almost zero value addition kept them stuck in same old job.

They tried CAT but they couldn’t get the college they wanted. Again, they compared their salary with college avg package—it was not a win win decision, so they opted out of the process.

Now, this is even true after you finish your MBA. There are people who get stuck in jobs (as it pays well) they stick there but that’s a different problem to solve.

It’s constant losing battle to only choose higher pay package over things like skill/value addition in the longer term

There will always be someone who will earn more than you, score more than you.

I would suggest you to work not just for money. Money is important thing but value/skill addition is also important.

I got several messages/emails from people who left their “HIGH PAYING” jobs because unnecessary work pressure, no skill addition, no work profile match, almost little/zero value addition.

leaving high salary job

Of course, you have to strike right balance between this. If you are getting everything including high salary, learning, competitive environment, future growth…then I would recommend you to go ahead and do this job. Maybe, you can forget about your MBA plans if it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

4. Have some worthwhile goal which is different from CAT

What happens when your self-esteem is based on your mock CAT/actual CAT score?

It goes for a toss when your scores are dwindling.

Have something worthwhile doing which is different from CAT.

Focus on learning different skills, developing yourself, developing your future career options. Take online courses on Coursera, Udemy.

Majority of students don’t read good books to enhance their knowledge. I am not talking about the books many of you mentioned in your book bucket challenge. They don’t take any time to equip themselves for their future interviews.

I find it very funny yet intriguing when someone says they want to go for Finance and they haven’t done anything related to Finance at all in their last 20-25 years. They don’t even know basic finance terminologies, forget about reading relevant newspapers, blogs but somehow they want me to help them justify their answer. 

I saw people posting questions like this on forum : I want to go for Finance, can you tell me how should I justify it? I am from IT background, worked in XYZ firm, my client was (I-Bank). I want to go for Finance because I don’t want to go for Marketing and HR.

When I first read this, I didn’t know whether I should laugh at this person’s utter ignorance or feel sorry for his shameless boldness.

This is happening with most people. They don’t do anything for value addition, skill addition. They suddenly want to go for Finance for no reason (just because they hate Marketing and HR and not because they actually like Finance)

The most shocking thing is when these people actually get selected into these elite institutes based on their flawed reasoning. I have no problem with these people but if I would be in their place, I would better be equipped with some basic knowledge about Finance before choosing to apply for it.

There is another funny incident that happens when people start asking you. I have been selected for XLRI HR and BM, which I should choose ?

How I am going to decide ? Didn’t you think twice before you applied to both of them?

Now, there is nothing wrong in applying to those colleges as many students have no clear preference about their liking but if you do your research about it using LinkedIn and other resources which I show everybody in GD/WAT/PI Revolution Program, then you don’t have to go through all this drama plus you will save ton of money and time in the process.

5. Be a good employee

Isn’t that obvious ? I hope, it’s not that obvious for most MBA aspirants. Majority of them are far from good employees.

Becoming better at what you do will generate stronger career options, more favorable networking, opportunities and the chance to link up with mentors who will help advance your career.

There are 3 types of employees

  1. Invaluable employee
  2. Extra-ordinary employee
  3. Ordinary employee

Ordinary employees make up the majority. They do what they’re told while on the job, finish work and never think about their jobs again until they come back the next day.

a. Extraordinary employees do more than the average worker. They come up with ideas how the business can save money and take those ideas to their bosses.They proactively look for opportunities to take on new exciting projects and opportunities to learn and become better.

b. They stay at work longer and put considerable effort into doing more than is expected.

c. Extraordinary employees get above-average pay rises each year because their bosses know they’ve earned them

d. Most often, invaluable employees work in fields like sales, marketing, or product development. Some invaluable employees are professionals who use specialized knowledge and education.

e. All invaluable employees have a direct input into and impact on the company’s key revenue streams

To move from being an ordinary employee to becoming extraordinary, develop these work habits

i) Understand your boss’s priorities– and make certain you’re doing precisely what your boss wants.

ii)Check in with your boss regularly and ask what you can do to help him or her be more successful. This will help you decide which projects are worth focusing on more intensively.

iii) Be candid about the fact you’re trying to get ahead by helping your boss be more successful.

iv) Focus on doing those things which will make a large impact at the expense of everything else.

v) Constantly keep upgrading your personal knowledge and skills– so you can reasonably expect your income to be raised. Learn how other parts of your company work, especially sales and marketing.

vi) Take work-related courses.Read everything which is available. Talk with your boss and other people who are high performers.

vii) Get to know more, and implement what you’re learning

Keep in mind the majority of employees in any company are just trying to do enough to get by. Most people have a mind-set they will turn up at work and do as little as they can get away with.

Even employees who seem productive at first glance can actually be wasting much of their time doing other things which actually add no value. Under those conditions, even a modest attempt on your part to be more productive will make you stand out and lift you out of the crowd.

As you continue to find new ways to apply your work time more productively, you will move even further ahead. This doesn’t mean you have to put in 10-12 hours, you can accomplish it 8-9 hours.

Now, the next question would be “What if my Boss is bad ?” He just delegates everything to me. Now this topic is beyond the scope of this article, so I won’t be going into that direction.

If you’re willing to work hard, you will eventually do better than those who are smarter, more qualified or luckier. This kind of hard work is always focused tightly rather than scattered. Take a few minutes each morning to think about what needs to be done.

Select some tasks which will move you in the right direction rather than letting your work time be driven by what ends up in your in-box.

Manage your job rather than letting your job manage you by default. Also pause once a week for a few minutes and think about what you need to do in the coming week.

You do want to work hard but do so intelligently so you maximize the benefits which will be derived.

As you practice these work habits, you will soon be in the top 20-percent of your company’s employees. To increase the chances you will get promoted to a position where you can earn more money because you’re worth more:

  1. Stand out– by having a broad range of business competencies rather than just one area of specialization.Have strengths in lots of different areas so you can move into different roles.
  1. Get to know other people outside your own department or business unit– and ask them to make you aware of any openings which are coming up.
  1. Plan for different contingencies– think about what you would do in a given situation so you can change directions without losing your productivity. This makes you much more adaptable which always enhances your value.
  1. Look for opportunities to work alongside the person who already has the position you want– and offer to do the chores they have no time for. Ask them to recommend you to replace them when they move upstairs themselves.
  2. Learn and master a skill which is financially valued by your company– which most likely will be something in the sales, marketing, creative or product development fields. To decide what specific skills are valued by your company, look at how your firm creates its profits and which jobs contribute directly to that process. Then focus on those areas.

6. Learn relevant skills

This is very crucial. Most students working professionals don’t want to learn anything, they just want to do get by somehow.

Always remember this.

You’re never paid for how hard you work; your value is direct to how much value is validated by the client or employer. So, making more money becomes an act of validation.

Ask yourself internal “How can I become more valuable / produce more / better results?” as well as external, i.e., “How can I help my client / employer see the value / results in a way where I’m compensated as well?

7. Take care of Health

This is the most important thing many if not the most students overlook. I am not by any means telling you to follow strict diet and hit gym everyday, what I am trying to tell you is eat well, exercise regularly, take renewal breaks, take enough sleep.

Don’t sacrifice your sleep, exercise or eating habits just because you are busy preparing for CAT.

8. Social Life

Most MBA aspirants who are leaving away from their home and working,  have no social life. Only social life they have is their office colleagues and party on Friday or Saturday nights.

They make no new connections. They are constantly worrying about how they can somehow crack CAT.

Most of their time goes into how fast they can leave the current job they are doing. I would encourage you to make new friends where you live, in your coaching class who are better than you in at least one aspect.

Always choose friends who are better than you, it will help you to get out of your comfort zone and grow personally & professionally.

For your CAT studies, join a group of students who are top performers. For betterment of your career, make friends who are better than you in their work and willing to teach you. Always seek the next level. This will definitely increase size of your social circle. Mistakenly, many students think Social life means partying, boozing and movies. It’s not the same by any means at least, by my standards.

9. De-commoditize yourself

The most important thing you can learn from marketing which is valid for any competitive exam.

It’s always best idea to differentiate yourself from the crowd. It’s called “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition)

Otherwise, you are ultimately waiting for your demise.

Extremely successful students have their unique USP

  1. Extremely naturally talented (They can grasp any topic easily and emulate success)
  2. Sound Strategist (They can be extremely talented but they use diverse strategies to outcompete others)
  3. Very Good Speed and Accuracy (These people have developed extremely good speed and accuracy by sheer practice)
  4. Combinations of above

Now, some people are gifted, you can’t have Extremely talented as USP but you can develop your USP based on something which is unique to you.

Doing everything exactly same as others are doing is recipe for failure. Maybe, it’s highly successful practice in the field of manufacturing but CAT is not like Manufactring. Everybody is different.

A year back, I talked about this post. This post belong to GP Ka Funda blog, it’s extremely good way to analyze your mock scores.

Are you choosing right questions

Mystery of R1, R2 and R3

Now, everybody I talk to, use this same framework for analyzing their mock CATs.  It’s great but now as everybody has started using it, it is losing its competitive advantage, you have to go beyond applying just this.

Skyrocket your Percentile can take you to the next level

Now, after few more years, this will also become commodity, so what?

Something else will come up. Your job is to do different from everybody else is doing it.

10. Use your Time Wisely

For A “Big Shift” In Your Productivity, For 7 full days, record activities that you do during your day. (Don’t adjust your schedule to get “better” results.) At the end of the day, assign a priority (PMA, LV & NV) to each activity and add any comments with observations you may have. Use one sheet per day. Most of your time should be spent on working on High Leverage Areas , Identifying and removing Constraints.

If you work until 12am, for example, then fill out the rows up to the 12am time slot.

Date:___________ Day of week:_______________ Total hours worked:__________

Time Activities Comments Priority

8:00 am

8:30 am

9:00 am

9:30 am

10:00 am

10:30 am

11:00 am

11:30 am

12 noon

12:30 pm

1:00 pm

1:30 pm

2:00 pm

2:30 pm

3:00 pm

3:30 pm

4:00 pm

4:30 pm

5:00 pm

5:30 pm

6:00 pm

6:30 pm

7:00 pm

7:30 pm  

8:00 pm  

8:30 pm  

9:00 pm  

9:30 pm  

10:00 pm  

10:30 pm  

11:00 pm  

11:30 pm  

12:00 am  

Assign a Priority to Your Activities

  • PMA= Percentile Maximizing Activities, Identifying and Removing Constraints (activities that have the potential to increase or maximize your potential)
  • LV= Long-Term Value (Activities that will increase your long term success, learning relevant skills, applying to a better job, improving your communication skills)
  • NV= No Value (surfing the net, distracting others, calling friends to chat, personal email)

Once you have completed your Daily Time Log for 7 full days, you will analyze the log to evaluate where your time is actually spent. The goal is to identify time wasters, reduce low/zero value activities and focus on high-value activities.

There are questions you should ask at the end of each day and the 7-day period:

  1. Were you satisfied with the way that you spent your day?
  2. Percentile Maximizing Activities: how much time did you spend?
  3. Worked on removing constraints: how much time did you spend?
  4. Long-Term Value activities: how much time did you spend?
  5. Zero Value activities: how much time did you spend?

11. Have some worthwhile hobbies/Interests

I certainly don’t mean hobbies like watching mindless TV, shopping, facebooking, sleeping or eating. These hobbies are worthless. They are not stress busters but they are actually stress enhancers.

But on the other hand, if you are passionate about cooking, dancing, writing, programming, then certainly that’s a worthwhile interest to follow.

 If you think devoting more time to your passion is sabotaging you, then think again. Let me explain it you in simple language.

Gravitational slingshot

gravitational slingshot

Both Voyager 1 and 2 employed something physicists call a “gravitational assist” to increase the relative speed of a spacecraft. It’s a complicated formula, but the simplified version is that the space craft, by interrupting its path to make a pass around a large planet, can greatly increase its relative speed, thus conserving fuel and reaching its destination faster.

So, a little detour around something with a massive gravitational pull actually speeds up your ship. Your hobbies and interests are like that. They should be there to keep your brain, heart, eyes and ears open for insights and ideas that will eventually help you to ace your competitive exams.

Because, if you are passionate enough about them, if the gravitational pull is deep enough, you will find those insights and ideas everywhere. Guaranteed.

There is another activity you should indulge into is called “Divergent Thinking” If you want to predictably increase your creativity and problem solving capacity, do this thing for next 7 days.

For next 7 days, don’t follow your routine.
If you consume tea before you take shower, then take shower and then consume tea. If you exercise in morning, shift it in the evening. Jumble all the activities and through that chaos, your brain will give you amazing insights and creative solutions to your problems which you never thought would be possible.

Other important exercise you can do is Reading on topics you are not familiar of. (This will also help you increase your RC score)

If you are from IT background, read book on Philosophy, if you are from Commerce background, read book on Manufacturing.

I’ve noticed this effect again and again and again in my personal life and work. My passion for Energy Medicine, Marketing, Persuasion has always provided with me breakthrough insights so I was able to borrow concepts from different fields like Manufacturing, Sales, Negotiation, Persuasion, Story-telling to create amazing course like GD/WAT/PI Revolution & CAT Preparation for Working Professionals , Interviewer Seduction Formula and Skyrocket your Percentile

I synthesize concepts I take from different fields and apply it to totally different fields.

12. Start improving your GD/PI skill starting from Today

If you want to ace top B-school interviews, start improving your profile, your communication skills starting from today, not at the time when you get the call.

This seems like counter-intuitive advice but most students I came in contact with wanted to learn everything they could in just those 1 or 2 months. It doesn’t work like that.

If you want to systematically improve your communication skills (especially for Interview), I have described the process in great detail here

13. Make Changes Stick

There are lot of ways to make some important habit changes that stick. There are 6 factors which influence your behavior,watch this video

Just have a look at them

six_sources_influenceTo create good study habits for CAT , you have to use 3 types of motivation
1. Personal Motivation : Your Strong Reason
2. Social Motivation : Using Peer Pressure
3. Structural Motivation : Using Rewards for Good Behaviour
4. Personal Ability : Learning New Skill/Strategy
5. Social Ability : Get help from more talented/skilled friend to help you out
6. Structural Motivation : Change your environment to make it more apt for the goal you want to achieve

If you use these 6 factors, you will build great habits not only for CAT Preparation but in all other areas of your life.
Here is another great video you can check out for Habit Formation

 


14. Have Discernment

Plenty of subscribers/students ask me this question a lot of times.

  1. Which book I should solve for improving my Quant ?
  2. Which classes I should join ?
  3. Should I join online coaching or should I join offline ?
  4. Should I apply to this B-school or that one ?

The best answer I give them is I don’t know. It’s based on your preferences, your intelligence, your past experience and how much you are willing to invest.

I can only give you direction but I can’t choose it for you. You have to do that. There are 100s of test series, 100s of coaching classes, 100s of online coaching, 100s of books.

How to decide which one to choose ?

Being from IIT doesn’t help, being topper of your class won’t help, having cleared tons of competitive exams doesn’t help, having more connections won’t help, asking on Pagalguy doesn’t help.

All these things will only get you in more trouble, faster, unless you have the number one 21st century success skill.

Discernment

How to be more discernible (or wise) ? Nobody can give you answer for this question.

The best answer I can give you is you just have to watch both stupid and smart people thrashing around in the mosh pit of life and begin to discern the difference. It’s all in the contrast.

Stupid people proudly step forward and identify themselves. They self-select. As soon as they will read this article, people who are angry about this will leave the website or unsubscribe. This naturally weeds the stupid people out, reading my blog or reading my e-mails.

a. Wise people research history and read original sources. Fools check on the latest buzz. Most CAT students are wasting their time in learning the trick of the day but never master their basics.

b. Fools read topper’s interviews and imitate them blindly and when they eventually fail, they blame toppers for not revealing their secrets.

c. Wise people research online and offline.I get people asking me about which college they should choose but very few take time to actually do research and talk with people from that particular B-school or passouts. They prefer advice from someone on facebook or pagalguy. The fact of the matter is most of the people don’t want to do it in the first place, they invest thousands on applying to colleges which they will never get, they waste time and money doing all the wrong things.

d. Wise people do take time to talk to real people and don’t just sit fooling around online. Fools suppose that if it can’t be found on the first page of search engine results, it surely must not exist.

e. Wise people know that education costs money.Fools think that “information wants to be free.”

f. Wise people focus on timeless principles. Fools focus on quick tricks. Fools worry when CAT format is changed, fools worry if some slot has difficult paper and some slot has easy one.Fools focus on learning shortcuts without learning the basics.

The problem with shortcut is it’s not known to most people but when it’s known it’s no longer a shortcut.When everybody joins the same class, when majority knows it, it’s no longer a short-cut.

If you are learning tricks, shortcuts, also make sure you know conventional method to solve the problem. You don’t need to use it but you certainly need to know about it.

g. Wise people know that principles are simple and techniques are complicated. Fools think techniques are simple and quite sufficient for success anyway. They won’t be bothered with the underlying principles. That stuff is too involved and too boring.Plus shortcuts, tricks and gimmicks are easy, right ?

h. When wise people get criticism from another wise person, they ask, “Hey, is there anything else I should know?
Fools ignores the advice and continue doing the same thing over and over. During GD/PI season, I got several hundred SOPs to review for free, I never reviewed a single one of them. Some people got very furious. They even sent me angry messages/mails.

They thought it was for money. Actually, it wasn’t for money. The reason was very simple. Those who don’t pay right price won’t actually listen to feedback. They just brush it off and go to someone who will make them feel good. It’s easy to do that especially when stakes are not high. I learned this from previous year’s experience.

Do not correct a fool, or he will hate you; correct a wise man and he will appreciate you.

i. Fools think only of the immediate benefit; Wise men think three or six or ten chess moves ahead and consider the long term consequences.

I don’t know that anyone can just sit down and teach you to be wise. You can’t go to a workshop or attend a webinar or watch video or read a blog post and acquire this vital 21st century skill

However, you can: Become aware of the distinction and begin thinking about it and noticing it – because vital lessons are literally everywhere in your life, quietly shouting to you to be noticed and absorbed.

i) Associate with wise people, and distance yourself from people who always seem to be screwing up their life with bad decisions.You can’t fix them anyway.
ii) Seek and accept sound advice, even when it’s uncomfortable, negative or embarrassing.
iii) Disregard the raucous shouting, the flattery and surface level buzz, and tune into the quiet, calm voice of reason.
iv) Watch Big Boss show, pen and paper in hand. Write down every mannerism, expression, motive and impulse you observe, and expunge those habits from your life, And then don’t ever watch Big Boss again, or hang out in places like your local cafe, hotel where it’s commonplace.

References

http://markmanson.net/

http://perrymarshall.com/

http://www.michaelmasterson.net/

http://gpkafunda.com/

http://www.abraham.com/

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Sukrut is a passionate geek, internet visionary and a full time blogger, he has been teaching MBA students from the past two years, he is a chemical engineer by qualification,. Read my full story here

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Sukrut,

    You gave me an awesome article to change my thinking.
    Thankyou so much.
    I want to talk to you man once.
    Imran
    (8985296499)

  2. akriti says

    this article is a waste of time…
    completely demoralising…
    the blogger himself is having some problems with lifestyle these days, i think..

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