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BOOK REVIEW Atomic Habits, by James Clear (Review & Discussion)

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luniac

Platinum Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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Dec 7, 2012
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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::xx::xx:
(Removed a star because of bad behavior, explained towards the end in review)

Format:
kindle

My thoughts/review:
It's hard to give atomic habits a bad rating when it does deliver on a discussion of habits, and it made me think.
The book uses a kitchen sink approach to cover the topic of habits from many angles.

I do feel the book way too long in some places and not nearly enough in others.
Over half the book was devoted to fleshing out the statements made in this published cheat sheet.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/jamesclear/Atomic+Habits/Habits+Cheat+Sheet.pdf

Read the cheat sheet for yourself, do you really need a chapter dedicated to each strategy? They're not very complex to understand.

Maybe my viewpoint is skewed because I've been actively working on my lifestyle for years now in pursuit of health and the fastlane. Through that experience you naturally come across these strategies.

Take implementation intention and habit stacking for example. This is obvious stuff.
My implementation intention is basically when I wake up I will immediately do some breath yoga. The "Cue" for the habit is waking up.
My habit stacking is that after the breath yoga, i will do some meditation, then i will do some calisthenics, then some cardio, then ill take a shower.

I mean this stuff is just common sense, of course it's easier to do some cardio after calisthenics, and then hop in the shower. It's simply logical.
It makes sense to get this stuff done upon waking up so it doesn't hang over your head the rest of the day.

Anyways... moving on.

He uses a ton of anecdotes in every chapter as a real world example for each strategy in the cheat sheet. It's all padding for sure, but I am a sucker for cool stories so I don't mind and i can only imagine how much drier the book would be without the stories.

After the cheat sheet portion of the book, it delves into an "Advanced" discussion.
In this advanced section the author leaves the cheat sheet framework and the book opens up a bit to cover concepts ranging from the Lakers coach's "Career Best Effort" strategy for his team, all the way to some quotations of Tao Te Ching.
He also throws in a bit of the David Goggins mentality in there just in case all else fails, like "Fall in love with boredom", "accept suffering", that type of deal.

I feel like the advanced section should have been the meat of the book, and the cheat sheet portion should have stayed short.
How are you gonna have a whole chapter about habit stacking, and only like a page about Tao Te Ching.

The author clearly mentions that self awareness and identity are a crucial aspect in habit development. This is the first big point he makes in the book, but he barely mentions it again until far later in the book, and only briefly.
I wish the whole book was about how self awareness and desired identity influences lifestyle. That would have been more interesting to me.

Anyways... moving on.

At the very end of the book there was an Appendix section, where he went over random "wisdom like" statements and a paragraph or 2 explaining them to further fill in the cracks so to speak. I feel like this entire section should have just been integrated into the rest of the book.
For every statement, i kept thinking where in the cheat sheet it would fit.
Here's a few of them:
1)Awareness comes before desire.
2)Happiness is simply the absence of desire.
3)It is the idea of pleasure that we chase.
4)Emotions drive behavior.
5)Suffering drives progress.

I THINK YOU GET THE IDEA...

All in all i think there's a cognitive dissonance type of issue at play here.
The cheat sheet strategies for forming habits are all about making it obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying. But later the author concedes that sometimes inevitably you hit a point where it's not attractive, easy, satisfying, and not very obvious how to proceed. And that's where you just push through anyway, push through to greatness.

Towards the end in the "advanced" portion of the book, the author talks about the "Downsides of creating good habits", and that you must reflect periodically to see where you're at as a person overall.

So wouldn't it be better to cultivate an identity based on constant reflection and self awareness to achieve your goals versus implementing various strategies.
Maybe that was the author's ultimate message, i honestly don't know.

I'm gonna provide my own anecdote which made me start questioning the "easiness" approach to habit forming.
Whenever i do my 40 minute meditation, I set the timer on my phone to 40 minutes and put an ambient music track on youtube that plays a bell sound every 10 minutes.
I've found the 10 minute bell sound was very helpful in motivating me to stay meditating, and even though i've planned to eventually wean myself off that and meditate in silence, it wasn't a priority.

This time though, my phone battery was almost dead, it would be enough for the timer, but not enough for streaming the youtube video.
So i was like okay, no problem, ill charge the phone for an hour or 2 and read atomic habits for now.
While reading, i get to the section on motivation rituals.
In this chapter the author discusses an anecdote, in which some guy always put on headphones with music before focusing on work. Eventually the ritual of putting on headphones alone conditioned him to crave focused work.
So my phone was charged and I went back to my meditation activity. I put on the youtube video, set the timer, and began meditating.
5 minutes into it, my wifi signal bugged out the music suddenly stopped.
At that point the first though in my head was to stop meditating, fix the music and restart the timer.

Then i suddenly realized how absurd my behavior was for the past 2 hours. Because i conditioned myself to meditate with the ambient music and 10 minute bell, as soon as that was unavailable my whole habit collapsed on itself.
I immediately decided to continue meditating in silence, and although my brain was getting distracted more than usual with thoughts of how long i've been meditating, I pushed through and hit the 40 minute mark when my brain thought i was still at 25 minutes.
The next day i meditated again in silence, and always will from now on.
Maybe i feel so strongly about this because my epiphany came during meditation lol

This experience really made me wary of all these habit strategies in the book. All the tricks to make a habit obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying are also CRUTCHES. As soon as you lose the crutch, get ready to suffer.
Maybe it's better not to learn the crutch in the first place?
I don't know for sure, and neither does the book...


FINALLY, why did i remove a star?
After the appendix section, the author reveals that he wrote an extra short bonus chapter called "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", all you gotta do is go to Bonus Chapter: How to Apply These Ideas to Business | James Clear
to access it.

wow i thought, could be interesting, so i click on the link and... well see for yourself...
You gotta sign up for his email list first!!!

i bought ur damn book, now u gonna funnel me to your email newsletter? Put the chapter in the book!
lose a star.


All in all though, this book did make me think and it did provide some strategies whether you agree with them or not.
And it was only 15 bucks, so I'd probably give it around 4 stars, with 1 star off for that Appendix section that should have been spread out in the main book instead.
And 1 star off for that sleazy newsletter sign up bullshit.

I wish he talked more about identity, self awareness, self reflection, etc but oh well. maybe he just doesn't have the qualification to talk about that deeper stuff.

Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
Least favorite chapter was "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", cause it wasn't even in the book.

Key takeaways:
  1. find a balance between hard discipline and easy action?

 

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Last edited:

LuckyPup

Done Dicking Around
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 2, 2012
521
814
338
Midwest USA
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::xx::xx:
(Removed a star because of bad behavior, explained towards the end in review)

Format:
kindle

My thoughts/review:
It's hard to give atomic habits a bad rating when it does deliver on a discussion of habits, and it made me think.
The book uses a kitchen sink approach to cover the topic of habits from many angles.

I do feel the book way too long in some places and not nearly enough in others.
Over half the book was devoted to fleshing out the statements made in this published cheat sheet.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/jamesclear/Atomic+Habits/Habits+Cheat+Sheet.pdf

Read the cheat sheet for yourself, do you really need a chapter dedicated to each strategy? They're not very complex to understand.

Maybe my viewpoint is skewed because I've been actively working on my lifestyle for years now in pursuit of health and the fastlane. Through that experience you naturally come across these strategies.

Take implementation intention and habit stacking for example. This is obvious stuff.
My implementation intention is basically when I wake up I will immediately do some breath yoga. The "Cue" for the habit is waking up.
My habit stacking is that after the breath yoga, i will do some meditation, then i will do some calisthenics, then some cardio, then ill take a shower.

I mean this stuff is just common sense, of course it's easier to do some cardio after calisthenics, and then hop in the shower. It's simply logical.
It makes sense to get this stuff done upon waking up so it doesn't hang over your head the rest of the day.

Anyways... moving on.

He uses a ton of anecdotes in every chapter as a real world example for each strategy in the cheat sheet. It's all padding for sure, but I am a sucker for cool stories so I don't mind and i can only imagine how much drier the book would be without the stories.

After the cheat sheet portion of the book, it delves into an "Advanced" discussion.
In this advanced section the author leaves the cheat sheet framework and the book opens up a bit to cover concepts ranging from the Lakers coach's "Career Best Effort" strategy for his team, all the way to some quotations of Tao Te Ching.
He also throws in a bit of the David Goggins mentality in there just in case all else fails, like "Fall in love with boredom", "accept suffering", that type of deal.

I feel like the advanced section should have been the meat of the book, and the cheat sheet portion should have stayed short.
How are you gonna have a whole chapter about habit stacking, and only like a page about Tao Te Ching.

The author clearly mentions that self awareness and identity are a crucial aspect in habit development. This is the first big point he makes in the book, but he barely mentions it again until far later in the book, and only briefly.
I wish the whole book was about how self awareness and desired identity influences lifestyle. That would have been more interesting to me.

Anyways... moving on.

At the very end of the book there was an Appendix section, where he went over random "wisdom like" statements and a paragraph or 2 explaining them to further fill in the cracks so to speak. I feel like this entire section should have just been integrated into the rest of the book.
For every statement, i kept thinking where in the cheat sheet it would fit.
Here's a few of them:
1)Awareness comes before desire.
2)Happiness is simply the absence of desire.
3)It is the idea of pleasure that we chase.
4)Emotions drive behavior.
5)Suffering drives progress.

I THINK YOU GET THE IDEA...

All in all i think there's a cognitive dissonance type of issue at play here.
The cheat sheet strategies for forming habits are all about making it obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying. But later the author concedes that sometimes inevitably you hit a point where it's not attractive, easy, satisfying, and not very obvious how to proceed. And that's where you just push through anyway, push through to greatness.

Towards the end in the "advanced" portion of the book, the author talks about the "Downsides of creating good habits", and that you must reflect periodically to see where you're at as a person overall.

So wouldn't it be better to cultivate an identity based on constant reflection and self awareness to achieve your goals versus implementing various strategies.
Maybe that was the author's ultimate message, i honestly don't know.

I'm gonna provide my own anecdote which made me start questioning the "easiness" approach to habit forming.
Whenever i do my 40 minute meditation, I set the timer on my phone to 40 minutes and put an ambient music track on youtube that plays a bell sound every 10 minutes.
I've found the 10 minute bell sound was very helpful in motivating me to stay meditating, and even though i've planned to eventually wean myself off that and meditate in silence, it wasn't a priority.

This time though, my phone battery was almost dead, it would be enough for the timer, but not enough for streaming the youtube video.
So i was like okay, no problem, ill charge the phone for an hour or 2 and read atomic habits for now.
While reading, i get to the section on motivation rituals.
In this chapter the author discusses an anecdote, in which some guy always put on headphones with music before focusing on work. Eventually the ritual of putting on headphones alone conditioned him to crave focused work.
So my phone was charged and I went back to my meditation activity. I put on the youtube video, set the timer, and began meditating.
5 minutes into it, my wifi signal bugged out the music suddenly stopped.
At that point the first though in my head was to stop meditating, fix the music and restart the timer.

Then i suddenly realized how absurd my behavior was for the past 2 hours. Because i conditioned myself to meditate with the ambient music and 10 minute bell, as soon as that was unavailable my whole habit collapsed on itself.
I immediately decided to continue meditating in silence, and although my brain was getting distracted more than usual with thoughts of how long i've been meditating, I pushed through and hit the 40 minute mark when my brain thought i was still at 25 minutes.
The next day i meditated again in silence, and always will from now on.
Maybe i feel so strongly about this because my epiphany came during meditation lol

This experience really made me wary of all these habit strategies in the book. All the tricks to make a habit obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying are also CRUTCHES. As soon as you lose the crutch, get ready to suffer.
Maybe it's better not to learn the crutch in the first place?
I don't know for sure, and neither does the book...


FINALLY, why did i remove a star?
After the appendix section, the author reveals that he wrote an extra short bonus chapter called "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", all you gotta do is go to Bonus Chapter: How to Apply These Ideas to Business | James Clear
to access it.

wow i thought, could be interesting, so i click on the link and... well see for yourself...
You gotta sign up for his email list first!!!

i bought ur damn book, now u gonna funnel me to your email newsletter? Put the chapter in the book!
lose a star.


All in all though, this book did make me think and it did provide some strategies whether you agree with them or not.
And it was only 15 bucks, so I'd probably give it around 4 stars, with 1 star off for that Appendix section that should have been spread out in the main book instead.
And 1 star off for that sleazy newsletter sign up bullshit.

I wish he talked more about identity, self awareness, self reflection, etc but oh well. maybe he just doesn't have the qualification to talk about that deeper stuff.

Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
Least favorite chapter was "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", cause it wasn't even in the book.

Key takeaways:
  1. find a balance between hard discipline and easy action?
I get where you're coming from, and I also voiced my cynicism about all the prompts to enter his sales funnel. The whole author/marketer thing is getting old.

I also agree that much of this is common sense, but that's true of nearly any book on personal development, productivity, personal finance or health. People know what they should do to be healthy, to build wealth, to develop their minds, yet... they just don't do it.

But books like this don't just tell people what to do, they explore why people do or don't do what they know to be good for them, and that's what makes them attractive or worth reading, at least to me.

It's true that there aren't any new ideas, and it's easy to brush off his tactics by saying, "Duh, I already know that." But we don't really know something unless we practice it and as someone who struggles with self-discipline, this book provided helpful reminders. In addition, science is evolving and I found much of the research interesting.
 

luniac

Platinum Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Dec 7, 2012
1,779
2,759
677
30
brooklyn
I get where you're coming from, and I also voiced my cynicism about all the prompts to enter his sales funnel. The whole author/marketer thing is getting old.

I also agree that much of this is common sense, but that's true of nearly any book on personal development, productivity, personal finance or health. People know what they should do to be healthy, to build wealth, to develop their minds, yet... they just don't do it.

But books like this don't just tell people what to do, they explore why people do or don't do what they know to be good for them, and that's what makes them attractive or worth reading, at least to me.

It's true that there aren't any new ideas, and it's easy to brush off his tactics by saying, "Duh, I already know that." But we don't really know something unless we practice it and as someone who struggles with self-discipline, this book provided helpful reminders. In addition, science is evolving and I found much of the research interesting.

I mainly have an issue with his strategy to attach extra stuff to a habit to make it easier to learn.
It just muddies the waters.

I agree with the concept of baby steps, take a big habit and break it down to small steps at a time.
I agree with combining similar habits together to knock them out at one time.
I like the idea of changing ur identity to fit the habit.

Anything to do with the habit itself I agree.
Adding on stuff around it to make it easier, not so much.
The day will come when those crutches won't be there, and then ur habit goes out the window with them. It'll feel like a whole new habit.
 

LuckyPup

Done Dicking Around
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 2, 2012
521
814
338
Midwest USA
I mainly have an issue with his strategy to attach extra stuff to a habit to make it easier to learn.
It just muddies the waters.

I agree with the concept of baby steps, take a big habit and break it down to small steps at a time.
I agree with combining similar habits together to knock them out at one time.
I like the idea of changing ur identity to fit the habit.

Anything to do with the habit itself I agree.
Adding on stuff around it to make it easier, not so much.
The day will come when those crutches won't be there, and then ur habit goes out the window with them. It'll feel like a whole new habit.
I agree completely. Before I edited my review, I had ranted about author/marketers who create entire "systems" around their concepts. Shit like this becomes and end unto itself (the BS overcomplicated system), rather than a simple means to the real end (habit formation). Remember when Franklin Covey did 2-day seminars on how to use their day planner? Oy!
 

luniac

Platinum Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Dec 7, 2012
1,779
2,759
677
30
brooklyn
I agree completely. Before I edited my review, I had ranted about author/marketers who create entire "systems" around their concepts. sh*t like this becomes and end unto itself (the BS overcomplicated system), rather than a simple means to the real end (habit formation). Remember when Franklin Covey did 2-day seminars on how to use their day planner? Oy!
i don't remember actually, i dont really follow that kind of stuff lol
 

rogue synthetic

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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I wish he talked more about identity, self awareness, self reflection, etc but oh well. maybe he just doesn't have the qualification to talk about that deeper stuff.

This is exactly what I meant when I said that I had some reservations about the underlying psychology in this book.

To be blunt about it, pop psychology is a mess...because psychology itself is a mess. I don't even mean the empirical sciences, I mean the words and the concepts we use for talking about the mind. The field is caught between two inconsistent extremes.

On one side, there's the tendency to be good materialists, to make psychology into a respectable science like physics and chemistry. To pull this off, you've got to ultimately talk about behaviors and brains. You can't really talk about stuff like mind, experience, feeling, desire, belief, etc., because these aren't observable in a lab.

This is how Skinnerian behaviorism found it's way into Atomic Habits. No psychologist has taken behaviorism (the operant conditioning stuff) seriously since the early 1960s. You get a lot of goofy results when you approach human behaviors as stimulus-response loops. In the end everybody dropped it because it wasn't a useful way to understand people.

That's bad enough, but things get even fuzzier with more recent work. After cognitive science took over in the 60s and 70s, everyone was treating the mind like a computer. Now with the neuro-fever going around, a lot of folks figure they can combine the cognitive program with basic neurology... so all the talk of neurotransmitters creeps into the lingo, and we can slide effortlessly from talk of serotonin neurochemistry to cognitive functioning to high-level behaviors.

You just model the brain as a kind of information-processor and bingo! Two thousand years of mind-body problem solved, just like that.

If only it were that easy.

Which brings us to the other extreme. Cognitive science and neurology aren't really equipped to deal with psychological concepts. You wind up with people saying things like "your brain wants...", "your brain makes you...", "you brain sees..." without realizing the absurdity of it.

Your brain is a three-pound lump of fatty tissue. Brains don't want, see, feel, experience, believe, or anything else. These are things that whole, living human beings do. (And if you are your brain, and "your brain makes you do..." then what exactly is the "you" that both is your brain and is not your brain?)

But you can't get rid of belief-talk, feeling-talk, desire-talk, and still make sense of human behaviors. It doesn't work. If you're talking about identity, meaning, and purpose, these have no candidates in the physical world. Talking about brains, as a neuroscientist or a cognitive psychologist, tells you interesting things, but not much about how real live people live and act.

Clear couldn't talk more about identity and purpose because these aren't concepts you can explain with studies about dopamine neurotransmission in the pleasure/reward centers (or whatever). This is why so much writing in this genre sounds confused.

If all human behavior bubbles up from hidden machinery in the brain, that's fine, but identity talk is basically a superstition. If you want to talk about purpose and meaning, great (and you should want this), but the brain's functioning is not the primary thing you're interested in.

I don't think most writers in this genre are out to fool you. They just aren't aware of the problems. The confusion between brain-talk and people-talk is practically built into the culture (thanks, social media!) Even many of the scientists working within their tiny little silos aren't always aware of the tangles.

They wind up joining a strict materialist or naturalist approach to the mind with a spooky kind of mysticism, which is the only way they can still talk about purpose and meaning.
 

luniac

Platinum Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Dec 7, 2012
1,779
2,759
677
30
brooklyn
This is exactly what I meant when I said that I had some reservations about the underlying psychology in this book.

To be blunt about it, pop psychology is a mess...because psychology itself is a mess. I don't even mean the empirical sciences, I mean the words and the concepts we use for talking about the mind. The field is caught between two inconsistent extremes.

On one side, there's the tendency to be good materialists, to make psychology into a respectable science like physics and chemistry. To pull this off, you've got to ultimately talk about behaviors and brains. You can't really talk about stuff like mind, experience, feeling, desire, belief, etc., because these aren't observable in a lab.

This is how Skinnerian behaviorism found it's way into Atomic Habits. No psychologist has taken behaviorism (the operant conditioning stuff) seriously since the early 1960s. You get a lot of goofy results when you approach human behaviors as stimulus-response loops. In the end everybody dropped it because it wasn't a useful way to understand people.

That's bad enough, but things get even fuzzier with more recent work. After cognitive science took over in the 60s and 70s, everyone was treating the mind like a computer. Now with the neuro-fever going around, a lot of folks figure they can combine the cognitive program with basic neurology... so all the talk of neurotransmitters creeps into the lingo, and we can slide effortlessly from talk of serotonin neurochemistry to cognitive functioning to high-level behaviors.

You just model the brain as a kind of information-processor and bingo! Two thousand years of mind-body problem solved, just like that.

If only it were that easy.

Which brings us to the other extreme. Cognitive science and neurology aren't really equipped to deal with psychological concepts. You wind up with people saying things like "your brain wants...", "your brain makes you...", "you brain sees..." without realizing the absurdity of it.

Your brain is a three-pound lump of fatty tissue. Brains don't want, see, feel, experience, believe, or anything else. These are things that whole, living human beings do. (And if you are your brain, and "your brain makes you do..." then what exactly is the "you" that both is your brain and is not your brain?)

But you can't get rid of belief-talk, feeling-talk, desire-talk, and still make sense of human behaviors. It doesn't work. If you're talking about identity, meaning, and purpose, these have no candidates in the physical world. Talking about brains, as a neuroscientist or a cognitive psychologist, tells you interesting things, but not much about how real live people live and act.

Clear couldn't talk more about identity and purpose because these aren't concepts you can explain with studies about dopamine neurotransmission in the pleasure/reward centers (or whatever). This is why so much writing in this genre sounds confused.

If all human behavior bubbles up from hidden machinery in the brain, that's fine, but identity talk is basically a superstition. If you want to talk about purpose and meaning, great (and you should want this), but the brain's functioning is not the primary thing you're interested in.

I don't think most writers in this genre are out to fool you. They just aren't aware of the problems. The confusion between brain-talk and people-talk is practically built into the culture (thanks, social media!) Even many of the scientists working within their tiny little silos aren't always aware of the tangles.

They wind up joining a strict materialist or naturalist approach to the mind with a spooky kind of mysticism, which is the only way they can still talk about purpose and meaning.

Yea man the whole subject of brain, consciousness, mind, body, etc feels like a rabbit hole.
From my own experience and research over the years, I believe "the zone" is where it's at.

I wouldn't mind being in the zone 24/7. I never feel more alive and capable than when im in that state of being.

In atomic habits, the author theorizes that the zone occurs when "System 1" which is the conscious brain is in sync with "System 2" which is the instinctual brain.

From the stuff i've read, im not sure that's right, and that it's more like System 1 completely shutting down, and letting system 2 take over.

OR system 1 lets go of certain elements like Ego, judgment, and other such distractions, and this lets system 2 naturally influence ur behavior.

My personal theory is that everyone is born in the zone. We are all in the zone by default. It's all the distractions that we internalize over the years that distort the zone.

I remember years back playing sports and performing excellently against a superior player.
I was on fire and didn't even realize I was 1 single point away from winning, until someone mentioned it.
Immediately i crashed back down to reality and became self conscious about my performance. I ended up losing the game.

Did i enter the zone and then leave the zone? or was i free of distractions and then a distraction was added on to throw me off?
 
Last edited:

Roli

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But after reading this book I will try to wake up at 5am even though I am "too sore" or "too tired" just to create a habit.

Do this the atomic way, instead of jumping straight back to 5 a.m., set your alarm 5-10 minutes earlier each day until you reach 5. There's no rush and it won't feel like such a chore.
 

ZF Lee

Platinum Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
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Jul 27, 2016
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My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star: :star:


Format:
eBook

My thoughts/review:
I was afraid that this book would be a rehash of personal development stuff.

I was wrong....

This is like One Simple Thing/Slight Edge/The Magic of Thinking Big/Miracle Morning presented holistically. Very comprehensive book on habits, why what,how, when. It's that comprehensive- I'd laugh at anyone who had to pay for a $5k self development course.

In all my life, I've only been to one study habits course during high school, and even then, it skimmed the surface. It never explained how our minds perceive the world around us, the rise and fall of dopamine, as well as classical psychology links. Never!

What school and most camps, especially youth ones, leave us with, are just some steps that we just stick to, without knowing how to adapt or change whenever the environment or context of new habits move on.

I guess this is why ALL, if not most of us, fall to pieces when we stepped away from the Slowlane/Sidewalk to Fastlane.

We have to find NEW habits and supporting rewards/environments/cues, but of course, when we don't know what's what, the chain of action breaks.

There's another thing I realized as well after reading the book.

Too many of us dream of the passive income machine that churns in money during our sleep. And thus, we work hard to master the making and maintaining of the passive income business.

What MANY of us don't think of is the 'passive' machine closest to us, or rather, US. Yes, our BODIES and MIND are the best passive machines in nature.

Think of it.
  • Our hair, skin and nails grow without us thinking.
  • Activities like bathing, eating, sleeping and walking just 'happen'. It's just done like that.
  • In writing and editing emails, copywriting, speeches, we come back after a break, only to turn the written work into something much more concise and elaborate.
  • When we used to spend 10 hours to reach a sale on foot, we might just spend 2 hours, as we know very well what to say, what not to say, and how to deal with objections (depending on your market).
I would recommend that this book be read ALONG with TMF or UNSCRIPTED. The TFLF duo don't specialise specifically on habits, as they are business books as a whole. They would need a lot of other supporting materials and experiences, which is of course, a given! Once readers get their habits fixed, they will be in a better stage to do well in Fastlane.



Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
I don't have any least favourite chapter. Even commonly known concepts like the Identity chapter was presented through a good diagram, although I was surprised that the author didn't use the Be-To-Have dichotomy. Perhaps its already heavily overused by the gurus.

My favourite chapter would be the one on the 4 Steps to Habits (Cue, craving, Response, Reward), and their related chapters after. The chapters on Making it Easy and Making it Attractive popped out from the pages, as I'm struggling at those stages to enact multiple new habits at the moment. I was so focused on the doing, rather than sustaining it for the long run.

Key takeaways

1. Doing a Habits Scorecard to audit ALL activities related to daily routines.
The author was pretty clever to point out the Japanese train conductors' practice of verbally calling out the train signals.

I should add the Point-and-Call system to my habits. My 100 Headlines a Day challenge actually fell apart a few days ago, so I will need this to pull me back to action.

It might be strange of me to have people around me hear me mutter stuff about doing this stuff and that like a soldier on a march lol...but eventually I think it'll become automatic.

I think this is what @LordPhenny (when he was still here) was trying to do with his askholing thread haha...but of course, he didn't follow up with the next 50% of the work to truly better himself.

I also now fully understand another reason WHY many of the more successful Fastlaners have extremely long progress threads on TFLF. It wasn't just to get feedback or teach others. It was for their OWN success, to point and call their activities and build them into recurring, repeatable patterns.



2. The Problems with Goals
  • Winners and losers have the same goals
  • Goals are momentary
  • Goals restrict happiness
I think this is what David Goggins (Can't Hurt Me) was trying to say when he talked about finding the next hardest challenge to do and others. He focused too much on the pain, rather than providing a comprehensive guide.

Process vs Events, again.

3. Bundling temptation with habit stacking. I remember MJ putting Reward as a stage of encouraging progress at the end of the UNSCRIPTION process, but I didn't really consider strongly that I should do it for even the little activities in daily life.

He gives some great examples such as 'I will watch ESPN for 3 mins after I call three potential clients'. But I wonder about the scenerio where the temptation is actually NEGATIVE, such as 'I will watch porn for 5 mins after I do X stuff.':inpain::happy:

4. I was astounded at how the author, James, broke down supporting and breaking habits into really succinct terms. Especially breaking bad habits- exactly the reverse of forming good habits. He couldn't get any better than these:

To break a bad habit, make it: invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying.

 

ZF Lee

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FINALLY, why did i remove a star?
After the appendix section, the author reveals that he wrote an extra short bonus chapter called "How to Apply These Ideas to Business", all you gotta do is go to Bonus Chapter: How to Apply These Ideas to Business | James Clear
to access it.

wow i thought, could be interesting, so i click on the link and... well see for yourself...
You gotta sign up for his email list first!!!
Hmmm was it a paid email newsletter?

If its free, I wouldn't mind to read some educational content and even buying something if he proves he can help.

Or I can just add more stuff to my swipe files. :smile:
 

luniac

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Hmmm was it a paid email newsletter?

If its free, I wouldn't mind to read some educational content and even buying something if he proves he can help.

Or I can just add more stuff to my swipe files. :smile:

i already bought the book, why not just put the chapter in there. Why make me take the extra step.
I know a funnel when i see one thanks to the fastlane forum.
 

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Kyle T

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I have a read a few books on habits. This one combines a lot of my favorite aspects of the other books that I have read.

For some reason, I am having a hard time rating it... I think what happened is that I rated the last book too high and now my ranking system is off!
 

LaraJF

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This is also why I don't really like the part where he talks about genetics and how you're bad at certain things. I get that part of it is important to know, but I worry about people having negative self talk that reinforces an identity where there doesn't need to be one.

Yes, especially after the bit about Laszlo Polgar and how geniuses are made not born. But I am enjoying it well enough too. I only have 15 more audible minutes to go! It is making me look for areas where I can habit stack (after morning coffee, make green juice before go for walk. After walk do 2 minutes of some weight or resistance training)
 

Samix

Contributor
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I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 6, 2018
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My Rating: 4 stars
:star::star::star::star: :xx:

Format:
Audible

My thoughts/review:
This book didn't give me any new or earth-shattering information, but it does reinforce many ideas that have helped me recently and gives plenty of food for thought. I was a little put off by every extra bit of information pointing you to his website and no other sources, but it didn't detract from the overall message. This book will go into my rotation of the few books that I re-listen to between my bi-monthly credits.

Favorite chapter:
Make it satisfying.
Key takeaway:
I tend to know what I should have been doing and then getting mad at myself for not being 100% into it. Now instead of being in a never-ending state of disappointed with myself, I now attach rewards to the behaviors that I want to encourage. My example: My boys and I enjoy playing our Nintendo Switch together but it would get in the way of progress sometimes. We now attach the reward to him having his homework reading done and me having completed at least two components or major fixes to my projects. This makes it more satisfying and we keep each other on task. My nine year old actually encourages me to stop messing around and get busy and he calls me out when I've drifted into other non qualifying tasks. Being explicit in our tasks and our rewards have helped both of us.
 

.B.

Bronze Contributor
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I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Jun 18, 2016
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My Rating: 2 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::xx::xx::xx:

Format:
paperback

My thoughts/review:

In UNSCRIPTED, MJ says that to implement new habits & processes long term, we cannot solely rely on our limited willpower:
It is also necessary to align our beliefs at the identity level.


But the notion of "changing beliefs at the identity level" was not clear to me.

So I bought “Atomic Habits” because, on his blog, James Clear writes that his book will describe in more details how to implement habits by working at the identity level!

But... the book does not deliver in this respect.

At least not in a satisfactory way

The positive:
- The first 2 chapters are great (p.10 to p.41)
- The 3rd chapter is ok (p.43-55)


The negative:

1) The remaining 250 pages get 1 star out of 5

Those 250 pages are mostly a collection of vaguely relevant anecdotes and studies (and, way too often, unnecessary personal anecdotes)
And sometimes, "information bias" seems to creep in the conclusions drawn from the results of the studies mentioned.

Marketing-wise, a 300 pages-book is more reassuring for a prospective buyer than a 50 pages book.
But those 250 (mostly) unnecessary pages are a disservice to the reader:
They make it harder to identify the useful tips hidden in the midst of unnecessary stories.
…until we discover that most of those remaining “spread nuggets” are brought back together in his “Habits Cheat Sheet” (p. 212-213).


2) And to make matters worst, key topics (that I know of) are missing (meaning more can be missing):

a) E.g. James Clear coins the term “atomic habit” to refer to a habit that is small and mighty. But then he doesn’t expand on what makes a habit mighty.
It would have been the right place to mention the “20/80” Pareto principle to first select the 20% of habits that produce 80% of results.
Especially if we plan to rely on those habits to get the promised compound effect over time

b) In his blog, James mentions that his book will contain tools to implement new habits by working at the identity level.

Indeed he says in chapter 2 how important it is to work at the identity level and he gives a few examples, but he barely touches the topic (in chapter 2 and p.130-133).

Conclusion:

There are good ideas in the first 3 chapters (out of 20 chapters).

But that doesn’t compensate the waste of time spent reading the rest of the book

It gave me the impression that what mattered most to James was to reach his goal of delivering 300 pages for a certain deadline, not to deliver the outstanding book that it could have been on this interesting topic, and also not to give the reader the best reading experience and the best information possible.

Favourite chapter: Chapter 2

Although it’s not new (cf. MJ’s book UNSCRIPTED), it says that if we want to get different results in our life, the most efficient way is to:
first, modify our "identity" so that it supports the habits/processes that are more likely to lead to the desired outcome

Key takeaway 1:

His explanations around « identity-level beliefs », p.30.
It improved my understanding of what it is (and thus, what I can do to change them).


In my own words:
Our identity is what we believe (the story we tell ourselves) about who we are, what we think of the external world, of others, what we value, etc…

=> such an encompassing definition of our identity gives several points of leverage to change our identity (by changing the limiting beliefs), and so change our habits, processes and results

=> Btw, with that definition of "identity-level beliefs", it turns out that MJ already used various techniques throughout his whole book UNSCRIPTED to help us change our limiting beliefs at the identity level, to make it easier for us to put in place the right habits/processes (e.g. by changing what we believe about events vs processes, money vs “value vouchers”, etc…).

Key takeaway 2:

James' 4 « laws », i.e. the 4 elements that create and keep (good and bad) habits in place: obvious, attractive, easy, satisfying
 
Last edited:

MJ DeMarco

Administrator
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My Review: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star: :star:
(The STAR/X emojis are under the emoji icon, under "commenting icons.")

Format:
Hardback

My thoughts/review:
Although much of the stuff here isn't new to me (much of it I talk about in Unscripted and/or read in other books) I thought James did a great job of tying a lot of psychological topics together, from the event/process dichotomy to the desire for shortcuts, to the feedback loop, to proving identity. He also did a fantastic job of tying a story to each concept.

Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
I didn't have a "favorite" chapter as I found all the chapters equally valuable. I enjoyed the part about habit stacking, and habit recording; two things I already do. The habit contract concept (a signed document) was probably the most notable to me as that type of thing is very actionable and can be implemented by anyone, it also is a great motivator. (Go to the gym or have your shirtless pic posted to IG!)

Key takeaways:

Didn't really have a "key takeaway" as much of this was just validating what I already knew from prior work as well as prior practice. I found the the structure of your habits (cue, reward, etc) and important reminder that I recently forgot as I myself, sunk into some bad habits.

The 1/2 star loss is simply because the material is already very familiar to me and probably isn't new to many avid readers. Otherwise, 5 stars.

I feel that the more you understand the habit process and its structure, the better armed you are to change them. Reading stuff like this never gets old because it reinforces our knowledge and causes us to become observers of how we think. Think how you think -- another concept in Unscripted -- is fundamental to becoming someone who questions everything.
 

emphasize.v1

Contributor
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Nov 17, 2018
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My Review: 5 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star: :star:

Format: E-Book

My thoughts/review:
I read the book slowly while taking notes. A lot of things I found here were quite familiar since I've read a few similar books. While this book does provide deep explanation on how habits form, stick around or vanish, it also gives us a set of tools we can use to track and implement what we've read: habit tracking,two minute rule etc. All in all it is a valuable book and I definitely would recommend.

Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
19. The Goldilocks rule.
The chapter explains pretty well how motivation works and the importance of small wins for establishing habits and reforming identity. As a person who practiced 6 different sports through childhood until now, tried several instruments etc. I relate to this chapter. I pick up way too many things only to scratch their surface and drop them later because it becomes boring. The point of this chapter is falling in love with boredom, but also staying in "the zone" where things are interesting. Everyone gets bored, winners push through boredom while amateurs drop habits completely. Strong point.

Key takeaways:

- Environment is stronger than our motivation and self-discipline. In the era of GURUS, not many people preach that. I liked how James has casually brought that up, I completely agreed.

- Motion =/= Action. That one had a strong impact on me since I found myself being a pretty passive learner lately.

- The habit components are pretty much a key takeaway to those reading about habits for the first time. [Cue -> Craving -> Routine -> Reward] loop

Also @ZF Lee that's an amazing review.
 
Last edited:

TreyAllDay

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star::xx:

Format:
AUDIBLE

My thoughts/review:
I am a HUGE advocate of habit building, and I think this book and The Power Of Habit are the two best books available. The reason I give this book 4 instead of 5 is because I think it could have trimmed a bit of the fat and got to the point a little faster.

Key takeaways
We often wait for ourselves to be motivated to complete tasks, and are disappointed when the motivation is gone. Motivation is NOT consistent and never can be, sometimes it just won't be there. The best way to improve your ability to take action or stick with a goal is with through the science of habits.
 

Invictus

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My Review: 4 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star: :xx:


Format:
Hardback

My thoughts/review:
I bought Atomic Habits a couple of months ago when it was on sale. I'm glad that it was picked up by the Fastlaners as it gave me an excuse to move it to the top of the queue.

Atomic Habits is a great book, and I think it earns a spot as one of the "Must Reads" for self-improvement. It's an easy read, so you don't get bogged down in overly-technical or scientific material. As Clear mentions, it has been written so that it is actionable/practical advice. The references are there if you want to do more research, but Atomic Habits is a lean, mean guidebook that you can reference to change your life.

Honestly, I think the book is strong enough that you're better off rereading it than reading a new piece on habits. Take in what Clear says, put it in action, and only pick up a new book on the subject when you need something Clear hasn't provided.

Fantastic read. Just overflowing with actionable info (the Cue-Craving-Response-Reward process is worth the price of admission alone).



Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
While all of the chapters were pretty solid, I would save my favorite was his discussion on identity. In this day and age, we tend to focus on what we 'really are' and that we need to dig deep to 'discover' what our identity is, but Clear paints our identity as something we can choose. And by adjusting our thoughts and habits towards that identity, we can change ourselves. +100 points for internal locus of control.


Key takeaways:

I didn't have any major paradigm shifts (the Identity one was actually just reinforcing the shift MJ caused when I read Unscripted), but this book is A+ for reference and practical tips.

There are other books that may 'shift your reality' and convince you to change your life. But Atomic Habits is what gives you the material to do so successfully. If building habits is something you struggle with or want to improve, it's the perfect read.

Now, I did dock it a star for one reason and maybe it isn't Clear's fault. But the book felt like it was still missing something. And, like the A-hole I am, I'm removing a star even though I can't quite pinpoint it.

I think it has to do with the layout of the book. It does feel like a series of blog posts that have been stitched together and fleshed out a bit. One particular thing that has irked me through reading it is that Clear continuously directs you to his website to learn more, get goodies, or even to read chapters. Put the goodies in the book with an option to get the downloadable PDF.

A book should be self-contained (in the majority of cases). If Clear provided links to extra information that wasn't relevant or was on a tangent, I don't think it would bother me. Instead, it seemed like you needed to use his website to get 100% of the book.

Atomic Habits felt like an extension of his blog. Something to be consumed in addition, rather than standing on its own merits. Unscripted doesn't feel like an extension of The Fastlane Forum (or even of The Millionaire Fastlane ), it feels like all the material I need is in the book with the option to pursue tangents or additional info at my own leisure.

Maybe Clear just didn't give the book enough space. A book should be as long as it needs to be. This means you shouldn't pad it, and if it ends up being shorter than the average, that's fine. If it means longer than the standard self-improvement piece, then that's fine too.

After reading, it felt like Clear had more he should have said.

All that being said, it doesn't change the fact that Clear's book is a fantastic, actionable, and easy-to-read piece. Want to change your habits? Buy it, read it, and take action!
 

ZF Lee

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UPDATE ON DOING THE STUFF IN THE BOOK

Pretty good. And satisfying to an extent.

I got out my planner, and wrote down habit stacks for my daily activities

For instance, for early morning house chores:

Replace air-con water (put a container of water in an air-conditioned room so that you don't get dried up)
+ light sweeping + laundry + open windows for ventilation

I've used only some of the Atomic Habits pointers, and they've already started working just 3 days later. I now just do the stuff almost immediately without a thought or worry.
I conditioned my environment to make them habitual:

Make It Obvious
Put cleaning equipment like a broom in the open so that when you walk out into the living area, you see it and do cleaning.

Make It Easy
Found a wiping stick and wiping cloths from Daiso. A lot more lighter and less messy than a vacuum cleaner.

Also, I've taken to the practice of cleaning up any area that I spend more than 5 mins in, after I do a job. If I spend time on the computer in a room, at the end of the day, I do a quick wipe up. Just a few mins. No need to let everything accumulate to one heavy day where I have to clean the whole place from top to bottom.

Tip from Greg Heffley: Use baby wipe for wiping lol. For laptops and computers, I think there's some special brushes to clear off dust, but you can use the wipes for the screen.

In Asia, dust settles more than in Western places. So yes, I have to take precautions.

Make it Satisfying


I find lots of satisfaction in sharing my progress with my girl on WhatsApp. I do stuff, I have something to report back to her. Simple.


I know some of you might just hire home help, but no house maid is going to look after your place as well as you do. No different than employees in your biz.

And besides, I have actually been hating housework for the lot of my life. But I've heard too many stories of arguments over housework between couples to the point that they break up.

Embarrassingly, I've discovered a lot of pain points and weaknesses in my present housekeeping and hygiene. When I first started out in college, I picked up some junk food habits, buying shitty stuff like chocolates and instant noodles. Plus, I would bring supplements and vitamins to my accomadations, only to leave them to dust away.

Pretty pathetic.

So, to counter the earlier bad habits....

Bad habits of buying and eating junk food
Make It Invisible

Don't buy the shit. Simple.

Make it Difficult
Or better...the first thing you buy whenever you go shopping must be a fruit or vegetable.

Doesn't need to be expensive.

It helps that the grocery store I go to has the greens up at the front door.

Just one. You are more likely to buy other healthy stuff after that first choice.

Make It Unattractive
Looking in the mirror to see more zits on my face after a junk food splurge eerily helped...guess it leads to Making It Unsatisfying emotionally.



Good habit- supplements and vitamins
At present, every morning, I take some bamboo salt (helps with digestion and going to the loo), Vitamin C and some seed drink.

I wrote down the stuff in order of habit stacks again.

Bamboo salt+vitamin C+seed drink

Make it Obvious
Put the stuff in easily reachable places in the kitchen.
And yes, writing the activities down in the first place makes you aware of what to do.

Make It Satisfying
Feel great the whole day, no problem going to the loo and I don't suffer from fatigue any more, which was cutting my Fastlane progress in the last few months.


Some other daily activities didn't need all the 4 Rules. Just a trigger.

For instance, to wake up early without dawdling, I simply opened a bit of the curtains so that when morning came, the sunlight would come in and flash me out of bed, where alarm clocks won't work.
Sunlight comes around 7.30-ish, so its a decent time.
 

G-Man

Cantankerous Contributor
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Jan 13, 2014
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My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star::star:


Format:
Paperback

My thoughts/review:
Great after the Goggins disappointment. Really enjoy how he helps me understand why I do things repeatedly. There's also the mindset shift to that comes from forgetting about self-discipline. Self-discipline has almost moral overtones, and making the shift to thinking in terms of systems instead I think makes it more interesting to attack your bad habits and increase your good ones.

Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
My favorite takeaway is the idea of reducing friction. It's made me think about he habits I want to develop in a granular level, like this action leads to this action leads to this action and so on, instead of just making checklists of what I need to do every day.

Example of one I've already implemented: I smoke cigars too much. I enjoy cigars, but hitting the club 3 times a week is no good, and really, you stop actually enjoying it when you smoke that often. I thought about it and here is the sequence of events.

  • Late afternoon I'm usually at the end of my energy for the day, when I'm in this weakened state, the idea of sitting on a plush couch with a stick and zoning out for a couple hours is the most appealing thought in the world.
  • I subconsciously make the decision to go to the club after work
  • I go smoke a cigar
New loop:

  • My iphone alarm goes off every work day at 3pm, about 30-45 minutes before I hit the bottom.
  • This cues me to whatsapp wifey and make plans for the evening, usually just to take the kids for a walk
  • Now that wife and kids are already expecting me home for some activity, even if I feel tempted later, I'm not about to call and bail
Result: Last two weeks I'm down to cigar on Sunday only, which is still to much, but a vast incremental improvement.
 

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Andre_01

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jan 22, 2019
2
1
16
Austria
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars
:star::star::star::star::star:

Format:
Hardcover

My thoughts/review:
In this book you learn a lot about how habits are build and improved. I think the structure of the book is really nice. First James Clear talks about what he calls "Fundamentals". Here he talks about the massive power of small changes and how habits influence your identity. After that, he talks about the four Laws on how to build and keep good habits. In the end, James sums up everything. I liked the book a lot because it's easy to read and more important also relatively easy to apply. The things you learn are not only helpful for your self-improvement, but they can also help you to build habit-forming products. I saw a few similarities to the book "Hooked" by Nir Eyal. Overall I think it's a great book worth reading.

Favorite (or least favorite) chapter:
There are some really good parts. For me, the best part is the "Goldilocks Rule". It´s about how to stay motivated. The rule states that you experience peak motivation when you work on tasks that are right on the edge of your current abilities. (not too easy and not too hard) The rule also states that not failure but boredom is the greatest threat to success.

Key takeaways:
  1. Just get 1% better every week or month
  2. The most important thing in building a new habit is repetition
  3. Habits can be completed in a few seconds but impact your behavior for minutes and hours
  4. We tend to imitate the habits of our social environment
 

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