From Hiding Your Superpower To Finding The Treasure You Seek: The 5 C’s Of Leadership Capital With Archie Jones

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Feeling like your leadership skills are stuck in first gear? In this episode, Tony Martignetti welcomes Archie Jones, the founder and CEO of NxGen COACH Network, bringing with him three decades of transformative leadership to the table. Archie unveils the secret weapon of successful leaders: the 5 C’s of leadership capital - capability, culture, communication, connection, and confidence. He also dives into his book, "The Treasure You Seek," and shows you how to find your unique leadership superpower. Packed with actionable advice, this episode is your roadmap to becoming a leader others want to follow.


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From Hiding Your Superpower To Finding The Treasure You Seek: The 5 C’s Of Leadership Capital With Archie Jones

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest in this episode, Archie Jones. Archie is an investor, advisor, educator, podcast host, and author with three decades of experience cultivating high-impact leadership in the private and social sectors.

As the founder and CEO of NxGen COACH Network, he is dedicated to developing the next generation of global leaders. Archie's work has earned him a place on Savoy Magazine's list of most influential black corporate directors. Archie's early career unfolded in the high-stakes environment of Merrill Lynch, Parthenon Capital, and IBM, where he sharpened his expertise in corporate strategy and M&A transactions. These foundational years were crucial not only in honing his skills but also in shaping his belief in the transformative power of strategic investing. He comes to us from the lovely Atlanta. I'm thrilled to welcome you to the show.

Tony, it's so great to be here. Thank you for having me on this show.

I love this idea of the campfire. It's a place where we have these great conversations that are intimate, and we get to explore some great ideas and some deep explorations. In this episode, we're going to spend some time getting to know you a little deeper. Especially, since we didn't mention it in the preamble, I want to make sure people know that you have a book that came out. I can't remember the name.

It is The Treasure You Seek, A Guide to Developing and Leveraging Your Leadership Capital. I'm so excited about it.

Me too. I have a copy. I can't wait to dig in. I'm anxious for you to share some nuggets from the book as we get going. Before we do that, we're going to go through what's called your flashpoints, the points in your journey that have ignited your gifts into the world. I'm going to ask you to start wherever you'd like and share what you're called to share. Along the way, we'll pause and see what themes are showing up as we share.

Leadership Journey

The beautiful part is you're getting a little bit of window into some of the things in the book. I didn't call them flashpoints. A lot of what's in the book is sharing my leadership journey. I share with you some spots in there and some inflection points for me. One of them started young. I played Little League football. I've been playing for several years and was more of a receiver. I look more like an offensive lineman or defensive lineman at present, but I had a receiver's frame then. I was tall and lanky.

As we started this new season, the coach asked me to line up and play quarterback. I was taken aback by that. I knew I had no experience in the role. I didn't have the strongest arm. I knew the guys on the team because we played years before. I knew I didn't have the strongest arm. I assumed he had lost his mind. Being a good Southern boy, I'll do what you told me to do and started trying to play quarterback. We had a wonderful season that year and won our Little League Championship thing.

The biggest lesson for me was that sometimes people see in you some capabilities that you have. I talked about your superpower. I think what that coach saw, at least what I'd like to believe, is if I think tactically, I’m a little bit taller so I could see over the line. That helped make little short passes that I made. I believe that more deeply, he saw the beginnings of a leader. Being a quarterback, even in that small setting, changed my own lens on myself and said, "I need to think about myself differently." Even leading ten other middle school students to march a ball up the field was the beginning of how you engage and get people to work with you and hit toward a goal. That was one of my pivotal moments or flashpoints as you call them on my leadership journey.

I think the other thing that I tell leaders that I work with on that is because I've had this conversation with many leaders in a different context, I might have said, "No, thank you," and walked away from an opportunity. I think we often do that. Where an opportunity presents itself, we don't feel fully ready to take it on or feel like somebody else could do it better, or I wish I had another credential, or a stronger arm, or whatever else it may be. You turn down something that could be pivotal for you in terms of opening up your own lens as to some new capabilities that you bring to the party.

We're off to the races, Archie. This is awesome. I love what you shared because a couple of things about what you shared resonate very deeply with me. First of all, this idea that you have people who believe in you. When they believe in you, it has you rising to the occasion. I've talked about that concept in a lot of different venues where on the show, particularly, but I think it's such a powerful thing. We need more people to see our potential before we can rise to our potential and surround ourselves with the right people.

Oftentimes, if we're surrounded by people who don't support our growth, what happens is we hold ourselves back. We say, "We can't do that." You start to put yourself in that place of like, "No, thank you. I'll pass." No one around you is going to say, "Archie, you should take this chance. I know you can do this."

Opportunity Journey

That's exactly right. This will touch on the next flashpoint. I think about them as a series or a progression as I think about opportunity. First, you have to learn how to accept opportunities that come across your desk or they come your way. What to do with that opportunity? Maximizing things that are brought to you by other people. I think the next leg of the journey is starting to try to create some opportunities for yourself, where you ask for the order, which is probably another one of my flashpoints.

You have to learn how to accept opportunities that come across your way.

You mentioned at the top my private equity career. When I started that 25-plus years ago now, there weren't a lot of opportunities to come right out of undergrad, which I did. I ran an undergrad at Morehouse in the Merrill Lynch Capital Partners in private equity. One of the pivotal moments or flashpoints as you call them was when I was in an interview. It was probably my 6th or 7th interview for mergers and acquisitions, which is usually the leading role in trying to get into private equity. You had to do a couple of years in mergers and acquisitions to get to private equity, where you can invest in businesses.

I sat in that 6th or 7th interview, and they asked me why did I want to do M&A. I was perfectly frank with them. I said, "I don't want to do M&A. I'm only applying for M&A jobs so that I can do this private equity thing that I love so much and I'm excited about." It was a two-on-one interview. What I didn't fully realize was that one of the guys was from Maryland's Capital Partners, a private equity group, and offered me the chance to interview with the guys on that. I took from that this lesson of asking for the order and asking for exactly what it is you want because you don't know who you're talking to who can help facilitate that for you. It builds from taking advantage of the opportunity that someone else brings to you to start to create some for yourself.

It's almost like building a muscle. Someone shows you how to believe, and then you start to believe in yourself and say, "I wonder what else I could do if I tried to push the envelope and ask more questions." You never know what will show up.

You start to build that confidence. We'll get to the 5 Cs of leadership capital that's in the book, but one of them is competence, which you can't teach, I don't believe. You can help build it, but it's tough to teach it. What you're hearing in those flashpoints is how it can build over time from being brought to you externally some opportunities that you capitalize on to creating some for yourself.

The last piece on that opportunity journey is starting to create some opportunities for other folks. It comes full circle where the same way a coach helped put me in the way of leadership or helped me think differently about my leadership. That's the work that I love to do now. Trying to be that same coach for other folks and create opportunities for them to start to build their confidence and understand what their superpower and capabilities are.

Be You

It's been said before, but people often say, "I'm only looking forward because that's where I'm going." I think the reality is sometimes we have to look back and say, "How can I help others?" In a sense, when I help others, I’m also helping myself because I'm learning through that journey about what it is that are the lessons that I learned along the way that get codified for me to share with others. Before we go into the next flashpoint, tell me some of the struggles that you faced as you were coming up in this industry of working in investment banking or investment management. Tell me some things that you faced.

Most of it usually comes internally. I'll tell you one that jumps out. I've been teaching now. I teach at the Harvard Business School entrepreneurship. In my first year of teaching, I didn't do so well at it, Tony. It's a tough job any way you selected it. I didn't do so well mostly because I was trying to teach like I saw other people teach, following their script. There are some great professors at the Harvard Business School and I try to mimic their styles. It wasn't until I got comfortable. My first year, that's what I did. I've mirrored other folks' styles. That didn't go so well in terms of feedback from how that went with the students.

I spent the summer, and I got some advice saying to bring the same Archie that is outside of the classroom into the classroom. Don't change into a different person in that classroom. I tried that the following year, and it's gotten to that ever since. Now, I've won awards for teaching not because I know anymore but because I bring all of me into the classroom. I bring my style of I like to work hard and play hard. We laugh a bit, but we certainly get after it.

I treat it like a board meeting because that's where I spend a lot of my time, and the students love it. I think what they love more than anything else is the energy because it's all me, and it's my style. The lesson of that was to be you. You bring something special to the table that when you share that with everybody, the right set of folks will appreciate that.

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What you shared is so powerful because there are so many people who try to be something they're not. It's not that they're bad, or there's no ill intent. The reality is they feel like they have to show up differently in different environments. This comes after trial and error, as you say. You come in to show up and think you have to be a certain way. You realize when you can be yourself, there's a certain energy that gets exuded by you showing up fully as yourself. This is why I did a TED Talk about not checking yourself at the door and how to bring your full self into the room. I think that it resonated with people because there's a sense that when we hold back, we're spending a lot of energy doing that.

I think that people, in almost an instinctive way, can pick up on authenticity. They know when it's you and when it's not. Even if it's not their style or you're not necessarily their cup of tea, and they would have done it differently, there's something that I think resonates when they know that they're talking to the real you, and you're giving them that full view into your style, views, journey, and all of the above.

Coaching And Teaching

I want to get back into your story a little bit. We're going to talk about your book, but I want to hear maybe if there's another flash point along the way. You talked about teaching, but was there another moment along your journey where you said, "It's time for me to make a shift a change in who I am?"

There's a big one there. It was about six years ago. I had a lot of success as a finance professional, investing in companies, but I still wasn't 100% fulfilled. I did a leadership program in Atlanta. What it offered was the opportunity to do some self-reflection. They asked the simple question. When are you happiest and most effective? They asked me and some folks who had worked with me before, so I got their feedback.

They processed it. What came back is it said, "Archie is happiest and most effective when he's coaching and teaching," which was a flashpoint because that wasn't my day job. I was serving as a CFO of a fintech startup at the time. The only coaching I was doing, if I was doing any that I thought of, was coaching my sons. Maybe you could call coaching or talking and helping some of the CEOs and leaders that I was working with this coaching.

The last one that came out of that was they found that usually, whatever that answer is, and so for me, it was coaching and teaching, that you're only doing that for 20% of your time. You're doing whatever else you got to do or feel like you got to do with the 80%. The magic is that even if you don't flip it fully 80-20 if you can move the needle closer to 50-50, there's a personal reward for that. I went on the journey of how to transform myself into a coach full-time. Outside of coaching perspective, a professional or maybe college sports, I didn't know coaches who were making the kind of money I thought I wanted to make or needed to make.

I started thinking differently about the board work that I was doing. That was coaching, and about the advisory stuff that I was doing. I had always been on my list to go back and teach. I decided at that time to go back and start teaching at the Harvard Business School. That inflection point around coaching was key around that. The other flashpoint was I was expecting the question, and I got it when I raised my hand and asked about coming to teach at the Harvard Business School. Where else have you taught? I hadn't taught anywhere else.

I graduated from the school. I'd been around the school, mentoring students and the like. I made it plain that I was going to coach or teach there, or I was going to go off and do something else. I got a shot at it. That asked for the order and I said, "I've been doing the work of what's being taught in the classroom. I think I can bring something special from my entrepreneurial and my entrepreneurial journey." The rest is history. Another asks for the order and asks for more than you believe you deserve. I was fully prepared to hear you haven't taught anywhere else. You need to go teach somewhere for a number of years first. I didn't. I got a shot and took advantage of it.

To use the financial term of capitalizing, capitalizing on that one door opening and going with that. What you shared is so powerful. Also, seeing this idea that when people say, "When you're coaching people, then you might think I have to be a coach." The reality is coaching is not necessarily the answer. Sometimes the answer is below the surface of it. It could be that like, "You can be coaching and in whatever role that might look like." Don't always take the first answer as that is what I need to do. It could be that you take that idea and then you look at it from a different angle.

One of the things I share with folks that take them through a lot of times is my coaching and advice on how to find their superpower. That's what I didn't say coaching is my superpower. I need to lean into that. Usually, there isn't a traditional job description for it. You can't go to the newspaper and find ads looking for coaches the way you would some other things. Whether it's a good listener, a creative type, or whatever it may be, you're generally going to have to mold and shape and change your own paradigm to turn that into a vocation, career, or real job because it's not out there labeled as such.

You had me thinking about this. We'll get on to some other parts of your journey. One of the things that you had me thinking about at this very moment is that when people don't show up as their full selves, they're bringing themselves and some of their gifts, and they're hiding their superpowers. When you are thinking coaching is one of your superpowers, but also, you being you is a superpower.

It is. That's a big piece of it. We talked about superpowers. It made me think about superheroes. Superman used to have to run into the phone booth to change. That's the thing. Why wasn't he Superman all the time versus Clark Kent half the time and then running into the phone booth and pulling it out? I think we all personally do some of that as well versus being Superman most of the time and being Clark Kent only a little bit at a time.

The 5 C’s Of Leadership

You got it. I hear you here loud and clear. This is fantastic. I'm having one of those a-ha moments for myself. I'd like to see where we're going to go next. I'd like to maybe explore your book a little bit. I haven't had a chance to dig into it. Maybe you could share some of the high-level ideas we've talked about a bit of your journey, and you have some ideas in the book.

What you're going to appreciate is some of what you heard is going to come back up because that's what the book was about. I'll give you a little bit of the genesis. I'm teaching at the Harvard Business School now. I spend time not only in the classroom but in these office hours. The students come in. Another coaching opportunity versus a group coaching opportunity, an individual coaching opportunity. I often get the question of what you asked. What can I learn from your journey? How can I apply that to where I'm trying to go and what I'm trying to do?

The Virtual Campfire | Archie Jones | Leadership Capital

I developed this framework of the 5 Cs of leadership capital with the idea that the first C, which we've talked about, is the capability or your superpower. Knowing what your superpower is and leaning into it is the first thing. You've got to do that to start with. The second one, which we touched on, is culture. The second C is culture. Bring your full history, heritage, and the house you grew up in. I'll tell you, Tony, the thing about that one is, so often, we look at our past, and we can find all the negatives or the liabilities. I have the reasons why I grew up hard, or I didn't have this, or I’m a single parent, or we didn't have money, or whatever else it may be.

I coach people through the book on how to change. We call it a cultural balance sheet, where you change those assets to lock those liabilities to assets and say, "The fact that you grew up and did as well as you did without a lot says that you know how to get a lot done with little or that you can overcome adversity." Whatever it may be, the thing that you think that you ought to be ashamed about should be a source of pride because it hopefully develops some grit and some things that are going to make you more resilient going forward. That second C is culture, and it ultimately gets to bringing your full self to the opportunity that we talked about.

The third C is communication. Telling that story. This is where you make the bridge from the internal journey to the external of those first two get you to tell yourself a different story so that you can then go tell the world a different story. You have to communicate better internally in a positive and powerful way before you can get somebody else, and be fully invested in you before you can get somebody else to invest in you. That's what that communication one is. That's our third C.

Our fourth C is connection. I'm a big proponent of the answers in your network. You heard through some of the stories I told you. Working through and with other folks is how I've been able to get several opportunities for myself and now creating opportunities for other folks. I'm a big one on cultivating connections. This will tie back to the superpower. It comes full circle if you invest in your superpower to create a connection. You're bringing something to them but then also asking for help and asking for the order with folks in there.

The last one is confidence, which we touched on. One of the quotes that I love, and it is part of what got me to the title of the book, is "The cave you're afraid to enter holds the treasure you see." This idea of slowly building confidence to tiptoe into whatever that cave is for you to get to what it is that you're excited about or that you got on your wish list.

"The cave you're afraid to enter holds the treasure you seek."

Those are the 5 C's, which take you through my journey because I worked my way through and told some of the stories you got them, how to communicate and ask for the order, how to start showing and building some confidence. Those are all in the book. I'm giving you my story. It gives you a little bit of some students' stories in an amalgamated way of taking you through some other folks' journey through those 5 C's so that you can start to build them for yourself.

Archie, first of all, there's no way I could resonate more with what you shared. These are so amazing. What I love about it is that you lived this. Sometimes, people come to these books and they say, "This was an idea I researched, and it was so nice. Here it is. Here's my research." This is you in a book.

This is a lived experience. I'm more of a field researcher. This is from the actual field. It's worked for me. You've got in there some stories of how it's worked for other folks when words played through. It's been battle-tested. A road tested for sure.

As I talked about Cs myself, my three Cs are connection, curiosity, and compassion.

We're talking the same language. I love it. What do you think about connection? Do you think about it differently than what I described?

Very much aligned. I think that we're at this place right now where connection is so important. We need to take things deeper. That's why I talk about the things I do because you can't connect deeper with people unless you get to know them on a more personal level. If they're hiding parts of who they are, that's not going to allow you to carry that connection.

Your compassion point, where that one hits for me is in the culture. I think as you start to appreciate yourself and your own culture, it opens you up to appreciate that from some other folks and to have that compassion for their culture as well. Once you look at your own journey, it has you thinking differently about other folks' journeys as well. I agree with you on that.

Writing Process

Archie, I'd like to take you back into your story for a moment here. When you decided to write a book, was there something about the writing process where you said, "Am I a writer? Is this something that I can do?” Is it like, “This is easy. I’m just going to slap a few words on a paper,” or was it like, “This is a new challenge for me?"

It was more of the latter. I talked to you about the cave you're afraid to enter holding the treasure. I felt compelled to do it. I was not comfortable in doing it. If I was going to be a coach and optimize myself as a coach, I had to get beyond the classroom or those folks who I was going to interact directly with. How am I going to do that? I'm going to have to start writing and put myself out there more. I'm very comfortable in a live setting in a small room, even a room of a few hundred or so because I can read the crowd and dial it up or dial it down based on how it's going.

It scared me to death the idea of putting my ideas out there and having them out there unfiltered. I can't give you a voiceover of what I've meant by what is there. It's out there. If you like it, you're going to like it. If you don't, you don't. It's open to all kinds of feedback and ridicule. I was afraid of that. That was my cave. I talked about tiptoeing into the cave. I started writing blog posts, and I started posting a little bit of stuff on LinkedIn just to get comfortable. You don't know me, but I'm putting stuff out there for you to read with my thoughts to see how I'm getting responses from it.

I slowly got comfortable enough to write the content I had because I was coaching on this stuff on an individual basis. It wasn't tough from a content standpoint. It was tough to get myself mentally ready to enter that cave because I had no idea what was going to come out on the back end. Will it be well received? Will it be taken seriously?

Now, you're on the other side of the cave, which is to say you write a book and people react to it. How will they react? I think there's a lot of that that comes up. It takes on a new life afterward.

You have to get comfortable with it's not going to be for everybody. That was one great piece of advice that I got from another author. Write it like you're writing for one person that it's going to resonate with. I've been pleasantly surprised and pleased with now, almost daily, that I get a comment from somebody who I don't know who says they've read it and they're loving it and digesting it. It's having some impact on their life. Like most cases, that cave that's holding you back isn't as scary as you think it is. Get your flashlight out and start figuring out how you're going to tip-toe into that thing. Your treasure is waiting on the other side.

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It could be a virtual campfire waiting inside.

That's exactly right.

Get Comfortable With Different

Is there something you haven't shared already that you'd like to share about a lesson that you've learned about yourself that you want to share?

Probably, the lesson that I would put in there is to get comfortable with being a little bit different and taking the uncommon path. I share this with my students all the time. Generally, this isn't for MBA students. I think we underestimate what we bring to the table, and we underplay our hand. I think in so many instances, we could do more, we could ask for more, and we have the opportunity to get more if we are confident enough in playing our hand. You don't want to overplay your hand. I'm a novice poker player. You don't overplay your hand, but you don't want to underplay your hand either.

Almost everyone that I ended up coaching, and I even coached myself through some things, if you sit down and think about what it is that you have, you generally have a better hand than you would normally believe. You have to play that hand strongly. I've learned over some years how to play my hand a little more strongly and ask for what I want, versus what I think I ought to be able to get easily. Where's the stretch in there?

This brings me to another instrument that came up. Think about those folks who have applied to college. I've got three sons, the last of which is now going to be heading off to college soon. I've seen this process not only for myself. Remember the idea of you having your safety schools, and then you stretch schools. You have these schools that have all the right credentials to get in there. If not a shoo-in, at least a high probability of getting in. I've got these schools where my SAT scores aren't necessarily high enough, or my grade point average is below what their thing is, but I'm going to apply.

My big thing now is why do we lose that. As adults, we don't apply for enough of our stretch schools. We only apply to things that we think we're shooting to get. That's what I mean by underplaying your hand. Some of those stretch schools, you can get into in your adult life, whether that's a job opportunity, an entrepreneurial opportunity, or even something in the community.

We've become almost risk intolerant. We need to be taking more risks because life is short, and it’s especially becoming shorter as we become adults. Let's put it all out there and see what happens. There's something about the persistence that comes with that too. You put things out there and realize that they're not always going to pay off exactly at the moment. You have to be like, "Maybe I'll give this another try. The timing could have been off, or maybe I wasn't ready to accept the challenge at the time, but now I'm ready."

This idea of failing forward. One of my newest favorite quotes, I think it's a Nelson Mandela quote. He says, "I never lose. I either win or I learn." I think we all can take that to heart and can leverage that.

Archie’s Top Impactful Books

It's beautiful. I want to keep this conversation going. I feel like we need to come to a closure here for you. Last question. What are one or two books that have had an impact on you and why?

I'll tell you the book. It's funny now, as an author, when I get this question, "Should I be seeing my own book?" Somebody else's book. It's a biography of Harriet Tubman called Bound for the Promised Land. I thought that I knew the story of Harriet Tubman. It was probably fifteen years ago that I read it. What struck me as I read it was a few things. It's a lot of how I've started to build my own leadership style and how I coach others on their leadership style.

The Virtual Campfire | Archie Jones | Leadership Capital

There are these three rings of opportunity as I think about it. That first ring is an opportunity for yourself, which we talked about. What she did was she got herself free. She traveled to the North and got herself free and invested in that freedom. She came back to the South, not for anything at all but to get her family. I think of that second ring for folks that once you've gotten yourself to some level of sustainability or success or comfort, you're going to helpfully then have some time to push that further out and invest in your own family or community in that second ring of opportunity.

The third piece is she started coming back for folks who she didn't know, but more broadly, it was her abolition work. She was speaking. She was raising money. She was raising awareness. I call her one of the uncommon leaders because she had no education, no real stature, and was not well-spoken. None of the things that we think about as a leader, but she was able to get to that third ring of touching people whose lives she'd never personally met directly by working on a broader basis and doing the policy work that she did.

I think about that in my own leadership journey, and I coach others on their leadership journey. You're going to create some opportunity for yourself. You're going to create some opportunity for those that you know, and your family, or you know well from the community. You are having the most impact when you start touching some folks who you may never get in the room with, which led me to write my own book, and then the podcast. That’s probably why you do the podcast. You get a reach well beyond who you get to sit in the same room with. They get to hear those messages and hopefully change their lives.

You are having the most impact when you start touching folks who you may never get in the room with.

This is so beautiful, and I love the way you describe it because there's a sense that we have to start first with our own sense of well-being because we can't be there for others if we don't take care of ourselves. When you get to that third ring, that's the legacy maker. That's the way that we create a lasting legacy, by creating an impact on others that truly is going to leave a ripple.

That is the plan. You got it, man.

I need to know. Is there another book?

I see the other one that I like a lot. I think it's Deepak Chopra, his Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. I love that because it's a lot of internal journeys. One of the Seven Spiritual Laws that I'm still working through is the Law of Least Effort. When you're in your sweet spot and doing what you're supposed to be doing, it shouldn't feel that hard. I still find myself sometimes charging the hill and doing things the hard way. This will go back to that network point. Instead of asking what I know, ask who I know. Who can help me get there is a part of trying to get there. I leverage that Law of Least Effort. That would be my second book, Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

That's beautiful. It's funny when you say that because people often talk about purpose, and they say, "What's your why?" I think it should start with a what's your who. The who of the purpose is maybe the more important question. I am so grateful that you came on the show. This has been an amazing conversation. I wanted to continue.

Thank you. This has been fantastic.

Thank you so much for coming on. Before I let you go, I'm going to make sure that I ask where the audience can find you. What's the best place to reach out and find out more about your work?

The marketing team has done a good job. It's all in one spot. will get you to podcast, book, blog posts, and everything else.

Thanks again and thanks to the audience for coming to the journey. I know you're leaving inspired and motivated to get out there and start making an impact and making your own legacy in the world. That's a wrap.


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