267: The Myth of Laziness, with Adam Price, Ph.D.

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Today, I'm so excited to be talking with Dr. Adam Price, a nationally known clinical psychologist and best-selling author with over 30 years of experience working with kids and adults. He's the author of “He's Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself” and “The He's Not Lazy Guide to Better Grades and a Great Life.”

In this episode, we’re talking about the myth of laziness — that’s right, I said “myth.” We explore why adults often jump to labeling kids as lazy and Dr. Price shares valuable insights about motivation, empathy, the importance of understanding our kid’s unique challenges, and how to foster autonomy and competence in them. We also share how crucial it is to build a strong connection with your kids and find ways to help them feel seen, heard, and understood.

If you're ready to reframe your perspective on laziness and learn practical strategies to better support your neurodivergent child, you won't want to miss this conversation. So, let's get started!

3 Key Takeaways

01

Motivation vs. Laziness: The conversation must shift from judging laziness to understanding motivation. Empathy is critical in recognizing that various factors affect motivation, including developmental stages, learning difficulties, or emotional issues.

02

Competence and Autonomy: Building competence involves helping kids feel good about their abilities, even if it's not in academic areas. Offering autonomy, breaking tasks into manageable parts, and providing choices can significantly boost motivation and self-confidence.

03

Connection and Support: Establishing a connection with your kid/student is crucial. Ensuring they feel seen, heard, and understood can alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration. Additionally, involving them in extracurricular activities where they can excel and gain peer recognition can be incredibly beneficial. Remember that parenting is a relationship, and trusting this relationship can lead to better outcomes.

What You'll Learn

Shift from judgment to empathy to better address the root causes of what appears to be laziness.

Autonomy can boost motivation and reduce resistance, so give kids as much control and choice as possible in their activities and routines.

Strategies to help children feel competent, such as breaking down tasks into manageable chunks and finding areas outside of school where they can excel and feel good about themselves, including video games and extracurricular activities.

Insights on how to approach situations where kids shut down or avoid tasks due to discomfort. This involves having empathetic conversations to understand their feelings and gradually helping them manage anxiety and self-doubt.

Make kids feel seen, heard, and understood. This can involve regular check-ins, acknowledging their efforts, and ensuring they have social outlets where they can showcase their strengths and build positive connections.

Resources

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Work with me to level up your parenting — online parent training and coaching  for neurodiverse families.

My Guest

Adam Price, Ph.D.

Dr. Adam Price is a nationally known clinical psychologist and bestselling author with over thirty years’ experience working with children and adults. He is the author of “He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself” and “The He’s Not Lazy Guide to Better Grades and a Great Life. Dr. Price also blogs for Psychology Today and has written for Family Circle Magazine, Attitude Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. He maintains a private practice in New York City and in Chatham, New Jersey.

 

Transcript

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:00:03]: So it's really a conversation about motivation, not about laziness. And when you talk about motivation there so many factors that can affect motivation. And it immediately opens up the conversation and the the whole perception to one of empathy rather than one of judgment. And I think that that's really important.

Penny Williams [00:00:22]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Beautifully Complex. I'm really excited to be talking to doctor Adam Price today. He's a nationally known clinical psychologist and best selling author with over 30 years experience working with kids and adults.

Penny Williams [00:01:01]: He's the author of He's Not Lazy, Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself, and the He's Not Lazy Guide to Better Grades and a Great Life. Doctor Price also blogs for Psychology Today and has written for Family Circle Magazine, Attitude Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. He has a private practice in New York City and in Chatham, New Jersey. Welcome, doctor Price, to the show. I'm really excited to tackle the topic of laziness, because we talk about that so often here and in the work that I do with parents as well, because I think we tend to assume laziness really easily. So I'm happy that we're gonna dive in and tackle this topic that can be really tough for parents and educators to navigate.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:01:54]: Thank you so much for having me, Penny. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and to your listeners, and it's a big topic. Mhmm. Yeah. It's why I titled my book, He's Not Lazy, because I think that there's 2 problems with it. One is it's very easy to assume that there is, a personality trait that a child or a or a teenager is is is is exhibiting Mhmm. Which is usually not the case, so we can get more into that. But the other thing is it's very judgmental.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:02:21]: And if you think judgmentally I mean, we all you know, we we can all be frustrated with our kids, and in our minds we can call them all sorts of names because it's hard to raise kids, you know? Yeah. But if they perceive us as being judgmental, we're gonna be less effective with them, and it's gonna hurt their feelings. And there are many better ways of getting the behavior that we want and and the outcomes that we want.

Penny Williams [00:02:43]: Yeah. So let's dive into laziness and talk about why, I think, first, why do we jump to that conclusion so easily? It's definitely sort of a judgment thing. Is it human nature?

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:02:59]: Well, I'll tell you I'll tell you something funny. My son, who's now 31 years old and works in biotech, but had ADHD and still has it, but, you know, was was, challenged by that a lot when he was a teenager and in part motivated me to write the book, because he taught us the hard way what worked and what didn't work, as parents. But you know, he said to me not too long ago, he said, you know, you wrote that book about laziness. Right? And I said, yeah. And he said, and you wrote it partly about me. Right? And I said, well, yeah. Indirectly. Definitely.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:03:32]: And he said and it's called he's not lazy. And I said, yeah. He said, well, I I am lazy, dad. I am lazy. And so the question is, is there a trait of laziness? Are some people more ambitious, and are some people more achievement oriented? Would some people rather just lay on the couch? I guess that's true. You know? The question is also what values you're attributing to certain behaviors. Mhmm. So people are generally motivated to do the things that they want to do and that they enjoy, my son included, and that doesn't always include schoolwork.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:04:06]: Schoolwork is inherently boring.

Penny Williams [00:04:08]: Yep.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:04:08]: And, you know, kudos to all the teachers who try to make it interesting. But, you know, I remember being quite bored in high school, and I talked to a lot of kids who are. It's not something that we wanna do, that kids wanna do. You don't wanna come home and do your homework.

Penny Williams [00:04:21]: Yeah.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:04:21]: And if you have a a learning difficulty or, you know, ADHD, then it's even more of a challenge because it's not reinforcing. You don't feel good about doing it. You don't get better at it necessarily. Over time you do, but it's hard. So I think, you know, it's important to just circumvent the whole idea about laziness. It's irrelevant to the conversation, because that's not what's holding kids back. It is maturity, it's development, it's a learning issue, it's something emotional, you know, which is either related to their own situation or just finding it difficult to get motivated when you as I said a minute ago, when you struggle and kids around you aren't struggling, maybe your big brother or little sister is whizzing through school, and it's hard to be motivated. So it's really a conversation about motivation, not about laziness.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:05:10]: And when you talk about motivation, there's so many factors that can affect motivation, and it immediately opens up the conversation and the the whole perception to one of empathy Yeah. Rather than one of judgment. And I think that that's really important.

Penny Williams [00:05:25]: I love that you brought up empathy. I have a similar kid. He's 21, and he also calls himself lazy. And I think, you know, it's different. It's relative in how we define it. You know, different people define it in different ways, and I think that, you know, because of our culture, and we make that assumption so often, our kids get that message, and then it's ingrained in them. I don't think my kid is lazy. You don't think your kid is lazy, but that's probably the messaging they're getting culturally, you know, from people around them or from social media.

Penny Williams [00:05:58]: Right? This hustle culture, which drives me insane, it tends to make people who are less driven feel like they're lazy, I think. And, you know, I always drill into why. So let's talk about that motivation, and then how do we determine what's really going on for individual kids who seem to be lazy.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:06:21]: Well, it's you know, I don't think there's one why. I think Mhmm. You know, there are many, many reasons. It's specific to individual kids. It's specific to their brain, how their brain functions, it's specific to maybe their set of teachers that year, you know, there's a lot of different factors. So I don't know if there's one why, but there are some fundamental issues about motivation. The key to motivation is really autonomy. You know, in the book I talk about the 3 c's: control, competence, and connection.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:06:49]: And, you know, so control is really about autonomy. We're motivated to do things that we choose to do and that we wanna do.

Penny Williams [00:06:55]: Right.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:06:56]: You know, your son or your daughter may not be motivated to make their bed, but that doesn't mean that they're not driven. It's just they're not driven to make their bed in the morning, you know.

Penny Williams [00:07:04]: Yeah.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:07:05]: Not so much fun, especially when your mom is telling you you need to. So part of it is to understand what is motivating for that kid. And I I think there's 2 parts to this, Penny. The first part is and I really like what you said before about, you know, kids end up identifying with these negative traits about themselves.

Penny Williams [00:07:24]: Mhmm.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:07:25]: That's why labels I have very mixed feelings about labels. You know, I used to think that, you know, tell a kid that they have ADHD because or ADD because, then they'll know it's not them, it's something other than them. But then the problem is they stop thinking I have ADD and they start thinking I am ADD. Mhmm. You know? Yeah. Or I have a motivation problem. It's more I I am lazy. And so I think that that's something that we have to combat so that they have a better sense of themselves and a different story that they tell themselves about themselves, and that they begin to identify with.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:07:55]: Because there's there's lots of ways that we can all find in our kids where they weren't lazy or they weren't they were motivated. You know, again, it may not be to do math homework, but but there are plenty of ways. The other is to build in as much autonomy as you can. Give them as much choice as you can. Yeah. And that's tricky. It's tricky because, you know, our public school system is not meant to individualize our approach to every student. That would be great.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:08:19]: That would be 1,000,000 and 1,000,000 of dollars, you know. And it's part of why private schools, which can do that more, charge so much. And it's not it's not accessible to everybody. Most people can't afford that.

Penny Williams [00:08:29]: Yeah.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:08:29]: The idea is to educate everybody, you know. So there's kind of a cookie cutter approach, curriculum, etcetera, which makes it more difficult to help each kid become more, independently motivated. And so I think then parents also have to keep in mind something, which I stress over and over again and find so helpful, which is that these kids are developing. You know, and we need to set structure as parents. We need to set guidelines. You know, my metaphor is that they're pulling the train. They're the engine of the train, and they're deciding which direction it goes, but we have to keep them on the tracks. Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:09:03]: I love that.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:09:03]: We have to set structure and rules, not to micromanage them, but to give them as much latitude as we can, but to keep them going in the same direction. But to realize, and I think this is very reassuring if you can remember it, that development will happen.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:09:16]: We kind of expect them to be all grown up by the time they're 18, and we're afraid, you know, if they're not all grown up by the time they go to college, you know, then their life is gonna fall apart. And that's just not true. It's not true at all, because, you know, if they're lucky enough to go to college, that's a huge time to grow and to develop, and to continue to mature. And if they don't, and they enter the workforce, they're still gonna grow and develop and mature, or maybe even faster. So I think that it's important to remember that, you know, they're still young and that they're growing and developing. And I think that's very helpful and it can be very reassuring. But you do have to crowd out the noise Mhmm. That you were talking about in terms of, you know, do it faster, do it better, do it you know, you gotta be all grown up and everything because it's just not gonna happen that way.

Penny Williams [00:10:06]: I always teach parents to add the word yet on the end of their statements.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:10:10]: Yeah. That's the most powerful word in the English language. Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:10:13]: It really is. Yeah. Yeah. So if we know that, you know, our kid isn't ready to be independent yet, it takes that fear Mhmm. Out of it in a lot of ways to help us to be more calm about them getting there in their own time. You know? And school is so not open to kids getting there in their own time. You know? As you were talking about, it's really tough to individualize, And so I think that's where a lot of these assumptions are made, just because our kids aren't fitting with what's typical a lot of times. Let's talk about the second piece then, the competence piece.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:10:51]: Yeah. So competence is kind of we were talking about it. It's feeling like you're good at something, like you can do it. And, I mean, there's many strategies for kids who have learning issues in terms of breaking work down, in terms of bringing it down in small chunks, in terms of creating some, accommodations so that they can manage the work, so that they can feel more confident, and so that's within their in their reach. So I think that's important, but I also think it's important to find other areas that kids feel competent that maybe aren't in school, that they feel good about themselves, and any of that includes video games. I'm sorry to say.

Penny Williams [00:11:25]: Agreed.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:11:26]: You know, video games have to be monitored and they can be all absorbing, but they're not a waste of time, you know? It's a it's a time where so many of the boys that I've worked with feel a sense of confidence, feel like, damn, I'm really good at that.

Penny Williams [00:11:38]: Yeah.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:11:38]: And not only am I really good at that, but it's also a place where they feel like my peers see me as good at that. Yep. You know, that's really important. And, you know, the kid who's into musical theater or music, you know, I think they'll feel that, but especially if they're a boy, their their peers are not necessarily gonna go, wow. You you you play the violin beautifully. You know?

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:11:57]: They throw a football. They're gonna say, wow. You throw a football, you know, really far. If they're funny but if they do well in video games and it's also a social outlet for kids.

Penny Williams [00:12:06]: Yep.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:12:06]: You know, that many parents don't realize. So I think there's different ways, different places for kids to feel confident confident. And it and also just one more point, confidence, it doesn't mean you have to excel at it, it doesn't mean you have to be the best. I don't know where this came from, but I hear it so many times from the young people I work with, college students, teenagers. I'm not the best at something. I have to be the best at something. You know? Mhmm. I don't know.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:12:30]: I didn't feel that way. I wasn't the best at much when I was in school. Right. But I didn't feel the pressure to be the best, you know. I I know I had to get good grades, etcetera, etcetera, but there's this sense of I have to stand out. I think social media plays a big role in it, but I have to somehow, you know, be spectacular. And that's not what competence is about. The other thing that competence is about is struggling when you don't know something to get to where you know it.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:12:54]: That's that's where Carol Dweck's word yet and work on mindsets comes in. Because as adults, we don't we don't try new things. We don't learn new things. You know, when was the last time you took up a new sport or a new hobby or some or new language, you know? It's good for your brain. Mhmm. But we don't do that as adults. We kinda get good at what we do and we just keep doing it.

Penny Williams [00:13:12]: Yeah.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:13:12]: And kids have to learn to be able to struggle and manage the anxiety and and struggle and manage the, self doubt, you know. And that's the difference between having a fixed and a growth mindset between what I call, I think I can metaphor, obviously. I think I can, mindset. Obviously, I didn't think of that. It comes from the children's book, you know, the little engine that could. But the idea is it's not what happens when you get to that crossroad and you don't think you can do it. Everybody gets to that crossroad. Everybody gets to that point where, do I think I can do this? Can I do this? The question is, are you able to tolerate the feelings that come up and keep going? Or do you say, no, this anxiety, this feeling means I can't do it and I should shut down.' Right? And so what we really want to encourage kids to do to become competent at anything is to struggle with those feelings, to manage those feelings so that when they get overwhelmed, when they get to feeling self doubt, that they can manage that feeling so that they can keep going.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:14:08]: Because if you do manage that feeling and you can keep going, you will get better. You will get smarter. You know? You will figure something out.

Penny Williams [00:14:15]: Yeah. And we run into so often in our neurodivergent population of kids shutting down, thinking they can't, or thinking it's too hard or it's too uncomfortable. I call my own kid a serial avoider because his instinct is just to avoid or shut it down when he comes to discomfort, and it's been something that we've really had to focus on for years to help him through that anxiety and discomfort, but I think parents get really sort of stuck there, and that's so easy to translate into laziness. Right? Well, my kid just won't do it. You know, it got hard, so they were done, and we wanna equate that to laziness, but it's not laziness. There's a million other things that could be driving that, and one could be that struggle with discomfort, just getting through the hard things and knowing that you can.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:15:06]: So what do you do in that situation? So going back to empathy, empathy is not just understanding how someone else is feeling. It's understanding how it makes sense to them, how the world makes sense to them, how that particular moment in time when they have shut down, when they're a serial I was a serial avoider last week because it was Passover, and I couldn't eat cereal. But that's not the kind that you're talking about. But when you're a, you know, mister avoidant, you know, what do you how do you talk to kids at that particular moment? And the first thing is to say, you know, well, what's going on? How are you feeling? Let me understand this from your perspective. How does it make sense to you that you can't do this? How does it make sense to you? Now why? Because why is gonna shut them down. You know, that that puts, you know, them on the defensive. But Yep. You know, but it's an easy workaround.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:15:55]: How is this making you feel this way? You know, and it's not gonna be one conversation. You know, the first time it's gonna be, you leave me alone. I don't wanna talk about this. You know? It's gonna make them anxious or frustrated. But it's over time. Let's talk about what happens when you get to that that's why I like the I think I can metaphor, because every kid knows it, and it's a great story. But Yeah. What happens when you get to I think I can't? You know? And, let's not talk about whether you can get the math homework done.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:16:21]: Let's not worry about whether you're gonna be a mathematician or you ever gonna understand that. I I don't understand. I'm talking personally. I don't understand math. Let's talk about something that's more important than anything that you do, and that's how you get through that bad, yucky feeling that no one wants to have of I can't do this, I don't want to do this, I don't want to face it, because let's help you just to manage those feelings and maybe you can get another problem done. Let's not, you know. And and so what are you worried about? What is on your mind about that? Yeah. And then, you know, you ask the questions, and then you say, so you feel you know, seems to me you feel that, you know, you're never gonna you you know, when you face these feelings, you're never gonna amount to anything, whatever they say.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:17:00]: And you validate and give credence to that because, you know, unless they know you've heard them, they're not gonna listen to you. So that's the part that I would work on

Penny Williams [00:17:08]: Yeah.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:17:08]: More than let's get your, you know, let's get it done. Parents have to do that to a certain extent, but I think that that's really important, for neurodivergent kids who are just struggling with this every day.

Penny Williams [00:17:19]: Yeah. Yeah. I talk a lot about the fact that kids need to feel seen, heard, and understood.

Penny Williams [00:17:25]: I feel like everything sort of comes back to that. And and, really, all of us as humans need that, but I think neurodivergent individuals feel it less in general than neurotypical people might, and so we really need to keep an eye on that with our kids, with our students. Do they feel seen, heard, and understood? I mean, that was the one of the biggest drawbacks to school for my own kid. He didn't feel like anybody understood him. They were constantly pressuring him, telling him he could do things that were really, really, really super hard for him, and they just didn't get it. You know? And so it's so important as the adults in their lives to make sure we're taking time to make them feel validated, to make them feel like we're at least trying to understand. We may not get it, but we're at least trying to understand. Right?

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:18:14]: Well, do you get a lot of points for trying, and now you've entered into the next c, which is connection. Right? That's just all what we're talking about. Yeah. You know, is is connecting. And I'll say something about that in a minute more. But the other thing is that, you know, and I think we realize that, but it's easy to forget. These kids are working harder to get through the school day than their big brother or their younger sister who find it easier, or their friend. Mhmm.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:18:37]: It takes more energy, it takes more focus, it's more, can be more humiliating or bring up negative feelings more. So they come home and they're done. You know, they're tired. They're done in a way that other kids in the family or other kids who don't have those issues might be. And so I think it's really important to factor that in to expectations. And it's hard because, you know, you still want them to do their homework, and I'm not saying that we should not have them do their homework, but, you know, they may need more of a break or make sure they have a snack or do something physical or whatever it is or take more breaks. You know, it's different for each family and there's, you know, there's all sorts of techniques out there, wall push ups for younger kids or whatever it is, but, just to kind of acknowledge that. The thing about connection is, as I said before, you know, it's connection and empathy from parents, but it's also about other people seeing you do what you do well.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:19:29]: And that's why extracurriculars are so important, I think, for kids. And it doesn't have to be baseball. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be, you know, for a kid who's, you know, an indoor kid who's not as athletic, it could be, you know, Magic the Gathering for boys, which is, you know, takes a lot of brainpower, a lot of planning, a lot of money in terms of buying those cars. But, you know, other kids get to see them do it and it's a whole social thing. So there's all sorts of options to do is to make sure they're involved, you know, the younger ones, is in some sort of school, after school activity. A job is a great thing to do, you know? Kids don't work as much as they used to, I don't think.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:20:15]: It looks great on a college application, and it's so much more rewarding than school. You know, most kids that struggle in school, they find it so much more rewarding and not just the paycheck, but also, like, you know, if I do a good job, the customer's happy or my, hopefully, boss is happy, and they see it, and it's just a whole different way of growing and developing.

Penny Williams [00:20:35]: Yeah. It's rewarding. My kid loves to be a helper. You know? Any project that he can go and help somebody with something, it just lights him up for weeks afterwards. So it doesn't even have to be something paid necessarily. Just getting out and doing something that has value, I think, is really, really helpful to our kids. Anything else you wanna make sure that we talk about before we wrap up?

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:21:01]: I I just think that parents have to remember that, you know, parenting isn't a skill. It's a relationship.

Penny Williams [00:21:08]: I love that.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:21:08]: And if you trust the relationship between you and and your kid, you know, everything is gonna work out.

Penny Williams [00:21:14]: I love that so much. Yeah. We're there to guide, not to direct. It's how I feel. Mhmm. And we're shifting that way, which is great. Mhmm. Thank you so much, doctor Price, for being here, for sharing some of your wisdom and some of your own personal story too.

Penny Williams [00:21:30]: It really is so valuable to others, and I know to everyone who's listening. I want everyone to make sure that you have the information that you need to connect more with doctor Price and his work, and that is all available in the show notes for this episode. I'll have a link to it says books, website, any social media, anything like that, as well as the resources that we have mentioned in this episode. All of that is at parentingadhdandautism.com/267 for episode 267. Thank you again. It's been a pleasure to talk with you, and I know that this episode is just gonna help so many out there.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:22:16]: Thank you so much for having me. 267, that's the number to be proud of.

Penny Williams [00:22:19]: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.

Adam Price, Ph.D. [00:22:21]: Happy spring to everybody. Take care.

Penny Williams [00:22:23]: Yeah. I'll see everybody on the next episode. Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and thebehaviorrevolution.com.

Thank you!

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I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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