#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Discover Your Syntax for Success with Shannon Cassidy

Generosity is the Key to Transformational Company Cultures

Shannon Cassidy is the Founder, President, and driving force behind bridge between inc., a specialized coaching firm committed to understanding, influencing, and maximizing the human potential. Tune in as Shannon discusses her “do-be-have” statements and why she believes generosity is the future of leadership and creating highly effective teams.

Shannon Cassidy portrait

“Generosity is the future of leadership and an essential ingredient in highly effective teams.”

—Shannon Cassidy

39. Discover Your Syntax for Success with Shannon Cassidy

Key Takeaways

  • You can be of service to others when you think about how they want to be serviced.
  • Authentic leaders can create an environment of belonging and inclusion where people can bring their whole self to work.
  • Your “do-be-have” statements define your personal syntax for success.

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Shannon Cassidy is Founder and CEO of bridge between, inc. a boutique leadership development firm specializing in behavioral change, executive presence, effective communication, collaborative teamwork, empowering leadership, and conflict resolution.  She provides Executive Coaching, Facilitation (team sessions, retreats, conferences) and Keynote Speaking (conferences, annual events, ceremonies) and Mentoring Programs (associations, ERGs, leadership circles) all custom designed.

Shannon combines her keen ability to get to the heart of every matter with a proven track record as a corporate leader. Before founding bridge between, she spent years building profitable businesses and driving innovation and leadership initiatives. This real-world experience formed the bedrock of her success, enabling her to provide clients with the strategies, tools, and inspiration to thrive during organizational change and lead with vision, values, and purpose.

Shannon has authored several articles and books including Discover Your Inner Strength (2009), The 5 Degree Principle: How Small Changes Lead to Big Results (2013), V.I.B.E. A Self-Discovery Journey to Authentic Leadership (2014) and Grounded in Gratitude a one-line-a –day, five-year gratitude journal (2015).  Her current efforts focus on the benefits of collective giving and philanthropy.

“Your return on generosity is the dividend you get when you invest in others.”

—Shannon Cassidy

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group, an award-winning California based facility service company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

Welcome to the BeBetter podcast! Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learned as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to Be Better?

Michael Kurland (00:03):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Shannon Cassidy, founder and CEO of Bridge Between, Inc. Shannon, welcome to the show. Please tell the audience who you are and what you do.

Shannon Cassidy (00:22):

Thank you so much for having me, Michael. Great to be here. I like to answer this question like be-do-have. Who I ‘be’ is: I am a believer in love. I know that sounds corny, but I think that we should measure our lives in love. That’s one thing that I am. I am generous. I believe in giving both acts of love and selflessness, but I also think it’s selfish to give because we get so much joy from giving that it almost feels selfish. I’m curious. I believe in the journey of life and that it’s about discovery, sharing, growing, failing, learning, and then unlearning and relearning. I really think of life as a curious opportunity to continually discover things. What I do professionally is I’m an executive coach. I’m a team facilitator. I’m a speaker and a podcast host like you, and I have a business. I have a business called Bridge Between, Inc. that launched in 2000. We’re celebrating our 21st year in business.

Michael Kurland (01:25):

Congrats on 21 years. That is amazing.

Shannon Cassidy (01:29):

Thank you.

Michael Kurland (01:30):

Tell me a little bit more about Bridge Between, Inc. What is it that you guys do there?

Shannon Cassidy (01:37):

We do executive coaching, which is one-to-one leadership development where business leaders want to learn more about themselves. Perhaps become more emotionally intelligent or they’ve transitioned into a new role. Maybe they have acquired another organization, so they’re thinking about how they can lead this new organization with these two cultures coming together. As a team facilitator in the same vein when organizations merge, the team dynamic needs some support because they’re back into that forming stage. I help the team to discover what are their strengths, how can they work best together. As a speaker, I talk on a couple of different topics, one of which is authentic leadership. Another one is on change. Most recently, I’ve been speaking about generous leadership. How to be a generous leader.

Michael Kurland (02:26):

I love it. I think these are all very pertinent things for the times that we live in today. I think you’re making a big difference in our world and that’s what we love having on the show. When we talked pre-show, you told me that you were sort of a gratitude guru. You sent me a five-year journal, which I have right here. I’m happy to say I’ve been utilizing it. It’s called Grounded in Gratitude. I love what we talked about. How you said you’re not growing in gratitude, but you’re grounded gratitude. That’s where it should start. Talk a little bit about how you got on that journey of gratitude and how you became this gratitude guru.

Shannon Cassidy (03:06):

Thank you. This is one of my favorite topics to talk about because I think it’s something that everybody can learn. I’m a huge fan of strengths-based leadership. How can we use what we already have? How can we leverage our strengths? The things that come naturally to us. The things that really make us come alive. Something that’s always made me come alive, and I never really had a word for it, is gratitude. I think I just naturally look for the little details that are delightful or things that where I say, “This is so great that we get to.” I think of get to. I get to go to work. I get to have this conversation. Even I get to solve this problem where I get to be a part of this team. Even things that aren’t always really pleasant, I feel gratitude towards. I kind of thought that that was more of a norm than it is.

One year, as a holiday gift ever every year, I would create holiday gifts for my clients and colleagues. I thought maybe I could create a journal where people could write down one thing a day. A guilt-free journal that they can just fill in the blank. There’ll be inspirational quotes about gratitude, quotes from friends, loved ones, colleagues, and clients throughout the whole journal. All of which are on an individual’s birthday. A client would have a birthday say today, May 24th. I would put their quote on today’s date. I created the journal and I was originally going to call it Growing in Gratitude. I then thought to myself, I don’t know that you grow in gratitude. Gratitude is a part of everything, but I feel like it’s a baseline. It’s a starting place where we understand that we have more than enough. From that place of abundance, then we have resource to give from. I decided to call it Grounded in Gratitude. I used the logo of a tree with roots because I think of it like that, where it keeps us secure and strong. From that place of steadiness, we can be of service to other people. It ended up being a really a remarkable gift because people would tell me how it impacted their lives. Again, I hope it’s not a guilty thing where you think, “Oh, my gosh. I forgot to write in yesterdays.” Just skip it and write the next day or backtrack and try to remember what you were grateful for the past couple of days. Really, it’s just to capture one thing a day. Whether you have the journal or not, for all of our listeners, to think about how can you zero in on at least one thing a day that you thought was particularly spectacular.

Michael Kurland (05:36):

It’s funny you said that because I told you preshow that I missed a few days since I received the journal. I do find myself feeling guilty. I’ve talked about it before. When you start practicing gratitude like it’s a to-do list item, then you’re not really practicing gratitude. You’re just doing a to-do list, and that’s not the point of it. Thank you for saying that. Give everyone a little bit of grace if you miss a day. The good thing about this journal is it’s got five years, so you got plenty of time to make up for it.

Shannon Cassidy (06:07):

It says two- zero and then an underline. Today would be 2021, but it’s really good through 2099, so you have plenty of time. [Both Laugh]

Michael Kurland (06:17):

Hopefully, I’m around in 2099, but hopefully I fill this out by 2026. I actually had one of these prior. It wasn’t the same one. I will say the one thing I really appreciate about this journal is exactly what you mentioned is the quotes. I think the one I did yesterday was Eckhart Tolle. I don’t remember what it said exactly, but I remember it sparked me to be grateful about something.

Shannon Cassidy (06:44):

It says, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” How true is that?

Michael Kurland (06:51):

That is so true. Exactly. I was very thankful for my fiancé. We’re getting married in almost a month from tomorrow.

Shannon Cassidy (07:03):

Whoa! Congrats to you.

Michael Kurland (07:03):

I’m super grateful for that. I want to go back and touch on a few things you said. First thing is the acts of service that you were talking about and how you got such a good feeling. We’ve talked about it before on the show. It’s almost like a runner’s high because there’s such a thing as a volunteer high. You release the same kind of endorphins when you help someone or help some sort of cause as you do when you go for a jog. It’s definitely a positive thing for the mind, releasing endorphins, and I just want to touch on that. The other thing that you had said was you’re a believer in love, and you like to work in acts of love. It made me think of the Five Love Languages. Are you familiar with that? Is that where that came from?

Shannon Cassidy (07:51):

Yes. Absolutely. It gave me more language to put around this very thing, which is how can we do unto others as they want to be done onto. We believe in the golden rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. I think that’s useful with things like respect and being honest. I think when we’re thinking about how we can be of service to people, we need to think about how would they want to be served? Same thing with communication. When I’m working with teams and we have all of these differences, I shouldn’t treat everybody the way I want to be treated. I shouldn’t speak to everybody the way I want to be spoken to because they’re not all like me. I should stop and observe and notice, back to that curiosity, and recognize how might this person feel most respected or be able to communicate with me in the most effective way. How can I adapt my style to help facilitate that kind of a conversation? I think of it as very similar to the love languages, which is to pay attention to the people in your life and how do they want receive love, and then try to offer them that in the kind of way that they like best.

Michael Kurland (09:02):

I’m reading the book Five Love Languages currently. I think it’s by Gary Chapman and that’s exactly what he says in the fourth one. You wouldn’t speak in English to your fiancé if she spoke Spanish. You would learn how to speak Spanish to be able to communicate with her. Some people like to get yelled at and get hard feedback, and some people need to be encouraged and pushed along a little bit better. It may be the same problem, but it’s two different ways of attacking it, which is all about being a listener and authentic leader. I think that’s the other thing that you mentioned in what you were saying previously, is that something that you focus on is authentic leadership. I’d really like to talk about that a little bit. That’s something that I think is so important.

I think when I came up in the business world, it was probably missing from most places. It’s something that I’ve really focused on myself as to become an authentic leader. I remember when I was working at other places, and I just got told what I needed to hear to shut up and do my job. I remember saying, “That doesn’t help me. I don’t feel like you’re being real.” I feel like there’s lies going back and forth, so I lose trust. I’ve always strove to be an authentic leader. I want to get your take on that. Why is that so important to you? Why did you say that in our last part of the conversation?

Shannon Cassidy (10:35):

I think it’s exactly what you were saying, Michael, about being invited to be your full self and not just brains and hands, where you just have technical competence and that is it. You’re a full person. You’ve got a whole host of things going on in your life. I think of people like icebergs. Not in the temperature sense, but in the sense that there’s like this little part of us that we get to see. There’s this whole host about us that’s beneath the surface, but that’s all a part of who we are still. I think for us to be invited to and encouraged to be more authentic is a healthy way to create an environment of belonging and inclusion and where people can bring their whole self to work. Similarly like the way I introduced myself, I think of this thing called the ‘syntax for success,’ which means that the order matters. The order of these three things matters. The way that I introduced myself was be-do-have. This is who I want to be. This is how I want to be. Authentic, true, inclusive of my strengths, and the things that I really want to be. These are the things that I do that are complementary to or in sync with that way of being. These are the things that I want to have. It’s fine to want to have things. I think we just have to put them in the proper order. I think most people do have be. I do. Do. Do. Do. Do. I’m busy. Busy. Busy. I’m involved in everything. I’m engaged in everything. I want to do everything so that I can have authority, or I can have respect, or I can have love, or I can have whatever it is that I want to have and then I’ll be successful. Then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be enough. It’s a really exhausting proposition that most people are living their lives by. I would just suggest that the listeners consider: how do you want to be? Put that first. Start there and then let everything else roll. It’s a formula that I think needs to get tweaked for most of us.

Michael Kurland 12:32):

I love what you just said. I’ve never had anyone put it quite as eloquently as you just did. Thank you for that. Audience, I really want you to listen to that. It’s be-do-have. It’s like what my mother always told me is, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” Similar premise.

Shannon Cassidy (12:54):


Michael Kurland (12:54):

I think I’m a prime example of that. I spent 33 years doing. I just accomplished whatever I could, and it wasn’t a ton. For me, I achieved mild success as a salesperson. I was able to get enough money to buy a house because, growing up, I needed to buy a house. That was the pinnacle. It’s the biggest purchase you’re ever going to make. You need to buy a house, so I bought a house. I then I bought a car and then I bought another car, then I bought vacations. I did all this stuff to have all this stuff, but I didn’t know who the hell I was. I didn’t know who I was until I was 34. It took a divorce, and it took getting fired from my job to really do that deep soul searching and really being comfortable with starting to be comfortable with who I am. I’m 42 years old now and, I’ll tell you, there’s days where I’m still not comfortable with who I am. It’s a process to just remind myself that I am good enough. I am comfortable in my own skin.

Shannon Cassidy (14:04):


Michael Kurland14:04):

Maybe you agree. I hope you do. It’s probably the biggest thing out there in at least the United States right now.

Shannon Cassidy (14:14):

Michael, you’re so onto it. I love listening to your podcast. I would say a lot of your guests have a similar kind of story. I do, too. I think it’s like they know success and then you realize, “Is this all there is? Is this really what I was working so hard for? Is this how I’m going to be enough?” The answer is no, of course not. You’re never going to have that in material things but having it in relationships and in contribution and feeling like what you do matters and that you matter, and that you’re enough. I do this exercise with clients and with teams and I ask people to write their ‘I am’ statements. For those listening, one thing that you could do is to create a list of ‘I am’ statements and include the things that you know you already are and then the things that you want to be. They need to be present tense, positive, future focused, inclusive of all of these strengths. One request I always ask is, “Can you please include ‘I am enough’ because I think that if we believe that so many of these other problems wouldn’t be such big obstacles.

Michael Kurland (15:16):

Totally agree. We can keep going down this topic for a long, long time. But I think what you said was perfect. Again, audience, it’s be-It’s do-It’s have. Take that with you if you don’t take anything else from this podcast.
Let’s shift gears here a little bit. Let’s get into your podcast because I think your podcast is really a great vehicle. I think it’s called Return on Generosity. I want to know where it came from. Obviously, it’s very relatable to everything else that you are doing in your career, but what sparked you to get out there and put a podcast together? Let’s then talk about that a little bit.

Shannon Cassidy (16:04):

Sure! Thank you! Another topic I would say in parallel with gratitude in my life is generosity, back to that soul searching and what are some of the elements or components of the formula for a great life. A big one is generosity. Back to Grounded in Gratitude. I recognize I have abundance. From that abundance, I want to offer something to others. I want to be of service and a good partner and collaborative. I thought of all the teams that I’ve worked with and we are in the pursuit of developing a high-performance team. It’s the goal. It’s the aim for the work that we’re doing. I started to recognize what are some of the key elements of every high-performing team I’ve ever witnessed that I’ve been a part of that I’ve helped support. It’s that generosity piece. It’s that participatory, “I want to contribute to the greater good.” I think of one team. I don’t just think of my functional team. I think of my peer team. I think of our overall corporation. I think of our industry. It’s ‘have this all-in’ kind of a mindset. I bother to give people feedback. I’m willing to contribute to the development of other people. I listen and hold space for people. I find ways to activate my strengths, and I look for partners to help me mitigate my weaknesses. Those are all generous things.

I thought one way to communicate a big idea is through a podcast. A lot of people get information these days via podcasts. I thought it would be really fun to interview leaders from all different industries, all different walks of life, and talking about this return on generosity. We talk about return on investment, and we aim for things that are going to give us the biggest ROI. What about ROG? How would you describe the return, the dividend that you get from investing in other people? I’ve just been blown away, Michael, by the feedback and the input that these guests have offered and the generosity of their spirit to help me to see what it’s like through their lens and their own life experiences, people who have mentored them and people that have given them really tough feedback that has changed the trajectory of their career. It has just proven the point that generosity is the future of leadership and an essential ingredient to great leadership and highly effective teams.

Michael Kurland (18:33):

Thank you for that. I want to touch on a couple of things there. First and foremost, most high performing teams have a level of generosity. It’s what you said, and I couldn’t agree more. In my career, I have been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been on the team that was cutthroat, whoever could step on the other one’s neck to have the better performance to hit their goal at the end of the month. Corporate loved that because everyone was selling at that time. Again, back in my early career, I don’t think it existed to have the generosity on the field. When I started Branded Group, I did not want competition. Specifically, I run the sales team still at Branded Group, and our team is so generous with each other. They just root for each other. They help each other. The other day, we kind of changed their verticals around. One’s in healthcare, and one’s in retail, whatever for what they’re selling. One of the girls was working on something that was in someone else’s new vertical, and she had been working on it for I don’t know how long. She probably was pretty close to a deal. For whatever reason, I said to whoever the new person in that vertical was, “Who’s working on this?” They said, “I think Michelle’s working on this.” Michelle said, “Ryan, I’ll help you out. I’ll just hand it all over to you.” She could have definitely put her foot down and said, “I put 12 months into this, and I’m close to closing a deal. She said, “It’s your vertical. I’m going to help you out. We’re going all going to win and everyone’s happy.” I was kind of taken aback. I actually haven’t shared that with her. Michelle, if you’re listening, that was a great job. It was for the greater good and putting everything aside for the greater good. When the team as a whole and the company is thriving, everyone’s happy. Everyone’s succeeding. I just thought that nobody says that and you said that it. It’s very important.

Shannon Cassidy (20:42):

I love that example. I encourage you please to reach out Michelle and tell her explicitly, even in more detail than you just shared with us. Back to gratitude, I really think that most people are grateful. I just don’t think we express it. I don’t know why. All the research indicates that we’re least grateful at work, which is a place where we need it the most because we spend the most time there. We invest the most of our talent and energy there, and we just aren’t expressing our gratitude. I just think it’s a really good reminder of a great example, something you witnessed. You were inspired by it. You’re so appreciative of it, and telling her is now going to have this big ripple effect because she’ll feel better and want to do that. The team will view that as an example of how you want people to operate. It’s just a really great, strong example.

Michael Kurland (21:33):

I just made a note, so I will do that in this week sales meeting. I will express that gratitude. Let’s talk a little bit more about your podcast. You made this great podcast about Return on Generosity, and what have you found? What have you found in your time doing this podcast? What’s the overarching theme?

Shannon Cassidy (21:52):

There have been some common themes from what the guests have shared, some of which are inclusion and belonging is a generous act. When leaders lead from a place of inclusion and that there’s always enough seats around the table, and I want to invest in the talent and the wellbeing of other people, that is a generous thing. Another one is feedback. It has been a very strong theme about the willingness to give feedback, the grace and humility of accepting feedback, the timeliness of feedback, the investment that one would have to make to offer someone feedback, and then really the culture that many of these leaders want to create is one where feedback is a very normal, healthy expectation of everyone there. Mentoring is another example of how people have expressed generosity at work.

The explicit intent of the podcast is to talk about generosity but not in the financial sense. I think very often when people think of generosity, they think of financial giving, philanthropy. Those kinds of giving back strategies are very important. This is more around the person-to-person interaction and how can we invest in other people in their careers. Giving people the opportunity to be mentored and reverse mentoring, too, where more junior level people are helping the senior level team understand what’s going on at their level and what they need most from the management and the corporation and the culture and then giving space. There’s been a lot of listening sessions this year. A lot of learning sessions where people have opened up conversations and enabled and encouraged other members of the team to share their story and their truth about how they feel and what it’s like to work there and what it’s like to be them in the world. For people to give space, and that means not creating a solution and telling people what they should do and solving the problem, but really just to give people the respect of listening and deeply trying to understand and empathize with what they’re hearing.

Michael Kurland (24:03):

I love it. I think the thing that you just sparked in my mind is of all the things you just said, which were all great and they’re all important, but mentorship is the one thing that really sticks out to me. Like you said, it the one-on-one, person to person, and I can tell you that I’ve learned in my old age that my most valuable asset is my time. If I’m willing to share my time and experience with someone who is open to listening to it and I’m going to invest in them, that’s the best thing that I can provide to someone nowadays. There’s something about being able to mentor and like you said reverse mentoring. My mentor, when I came out to California, he made time. He was running a company just like me, a multimillion-dollar company. He made time for me on a quarterly basis to sit and have lunch, and he was very invested in how I was doing. I always appreciate that and the ability to pay it forward makes me happy.

Shannon Cassidy (25:11):

Absolutely. I was listening to a podcast recently, just going back to love. I was trying to look at who it’s from. It was a Brene Brown podcast. She had a guest on, and the guest said, “How do you spell love? T-I-M-E.”

Michael Kurland (25:26):

Wow. That’s true. I love Brene Brown, by the way. Great reference. I haven’t heard that podcast yet. I think she’s only on Spotify, and I’m only on Apple, so I have to figure that out. [Both laugh] She is one of my main drivers in everything that I’ve done. Vulnerability set me on a whole new trajectory in my life, but that’s whole another podcast.

Shannon Cassidy (25:52):

Yes. Absolutely. That’d would be a good one.

Michael Kurland (25:55):

My fiancé and I, when we do have little squabbles, it’s mainly because she just wants more of my time. I’m so scatterbrained and trying to do 50 million things. Sometimes I don’t just slow down and focus on her, and that is my fault. I need to give her more of my time. I’ve been working on that, especially reading the Five Love Languages.

Shannon Cassidy (26:19):

I was going to say, that’s a good start.

Michael Kurland (26:21):

Let me ask you this, though. I’m sure along your path, you must have had some mentors that have stuck out to you. Who was your greatest mentor?

Shannon Cassidy (26:30):

I have so many, Michael. The person that comes to my mind is Dr. Agnes Duty. She was a professor of mine in college. One of the courses that I took with her was a course on conflict resolution and conflict management. We had to write in our journal all kinds of conflicts and things that we were experiencing. Agnes knew a lot about me because of my journaling and her grading, and it opened up a great conversation. I was always the kind of student that would like to go to my teacher’s office hours because I found it easier when professors explain things to me one-on-one. She would ask me a lot of questions about what I was journaling about, the conflicts in my life, and the relationships in my life. That sparked a really beautiful relationship that has cascaded long into my adult years. She’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, and she’s, struggling health wise right now, but my children know her. They refer to her as Aunt Agnes. Some of the things that she taught me was to be bold. She’s one of those people that’s unapologetically herself. She would wear big hats and big earrings and bright colors and loved the color purple. She just was so authentic and real and present. If you were speaking to her, it was like there was no one else in existence other than you. I appreciate that about her. She really stood for the underrepresented for minority groups, for standing up for equitable treatment of women and people of color. She had so many great examples of things that she did early in her life that really moved the needle on inclusion. I love her spirit, her generosity, her wisdom.

I remember one time, just back to relationships, Michael, she said to me… One of the things I was journaling about was a toxic relationship that I was in, and the person had wanted to get married. I wrote to her and said, “I think I could do this. I think could marry him. I could make this work.” She wanted to meet and talk about it. She said, “I think you’re asking yourself the wrong question. You could marry most people and you could make it work with most people. You have to ask yourself: could you live without him? The thought of living without him… I got to tell you, Michael, I was rushed with peace. I had this thought, “Oh, my gosh. My life would be so much easier!” It was a simple thing, but only a mentor who really knew the depth of me and this relationship could ask such a profound question and really change my perspective completely. I’m deeply grateful to her.

Michael Kurland (29:12):

Thank you, Agnes for saving you a lot of suffering and pain and all that comes along with a long-term breakup. That’s an amazing story. It made me smile and a little sad at the same time. Thank you for sharing.

Shannon Cassidy (29:32):

Sure. Thanks for asking.

Michael Kurland (29:34):

Shannon, it’s been a great time having you on the show today. If the audience would like to get ahold of you, how can they do so?

Shannon Cassidy (29:43):

My website is bridgebetween.com or even more simply, if you go to shannoncassidy.com, it will take you there as well. The podcast link is on there also if you’re interested.

Michael Kurland (29:56):

Again, Shannon, thank you for coming on. It’s been a great conversation and audience until next time.

Thank you for tuning in! I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There is no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform.

To learn more Branded Group’s “Be Better” experience and how we provide industry-leading on-demand facility maintenance, construction management, and special project implementation as a national facilities maintenance company, visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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