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Advanced Truths of Healthy Communication for Couples

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Two advanced truths of healthy communication – t he explanation used to describe a person is not the person, and people operate out of their interpretation.Having counseled couples for over thirty years, I’ve come to appreciate that communicating effectively is more of an attitude than having specific skills. The skills seem to emerge when your heart is in the right place. In one of my books, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home, I shared advanced truths of healthy communication to help couples become better communicators.

Embracing these truths will assist you so that you can (I) more clearly define the problem or topic of discussion, (2) more accurately listen and understand your partner, and (3) develop even more flexibility and expediency in accomplishing your communication goals.

There are four advanced truths of healthy communication. In this post I will focus on the first two:

#1 The explanation used to describe a person or situation is not the person.

We all build hypotheses about our partner in order to understand and respond to his or her behavior. For example, one couple I worked with faced a communication breakdown (their names have been changed). Kurt wanted to move to get a promotion and his wife Trish refused to leave even though she’d been willing to relocate in the past. You see Kurt assumed that Trish always followed his career moves because she put his career before her own.

In reality, Kurt's promotions opened career doors for Trish also. Furthermore, moving to a new town every few years when she was younger and childless was not a problem for Trish. But with twin daughters to care for, a desire to put down roots in a community, and a career of her own that she loved, Trish demonstrated another side of herself that did not fit Kurt's explanation of her. As Kurt expanded his consciousness, both he and Trish learned that there is more to their partner than one simple explanation.

#2 People do not operate out of sensory experience, but rather out of their interpretation or map of reality.

Because we build hypotheses, we tend to operate in the world as if our internal maps (i.e., hypotheses or explanations of reality) are the truth. We forget that we developed these internal maps after gathering information with our senses. Once the map is built, we sometimes ignore future sensory experience in favor of our presuppositions.

Therefore, the second advanced truth is closely aligned with the first advanced truth. Knowing that you and others are operating in the world according to your own interpretation of reality releases you to notice what facts or real experience contributed to a specific behavior.
For example, another couple (names have been changed), Karla and Mike, had been ignoring their own senses with regard to Mike's alcohol abuse. They ignored how much he drank. They ignored the irrationality of their fights. They ignored the effects of alcohol abuse on their children, employees, and friends. With the incredible success of their business, and moving into a brand-new million-dollar house, Mike and Karla felt as if they were on top of the world without a care. It seemed a contradiction that they would have serious problem at the height of their financial and material success.

Yet Karla was shaken to notice her sensory experience when Mike shattered a liquor bottle against the living room wall. Then all of the other sensory clues she'd been ignoring fell into place, too. It was time to adjust her map of reality to include the possibility that the husband she loved was an addict. Similarly, Mike's map of reality changed shortly after Karla confronted him.

Keeping these advanced truths in mind will put your heart in the right place so you begin to trust that you and your partner really are on the same side. In an upcoming post I’ll share two more advance truths for healthy communication.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay not to have all the answers and to ask for help. For the couples I mentioned in this post, the communication breakdown was so severe that they were unable to achieve any solutions until they asked a professional for help. If you need help communicating with your partner, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for entrepreneurial couples via a secure video Q & A session. Learn more by visiting Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

How Can You Guarantee that a Copreneurship will Work for You and Your Spouse?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


The social exchange theory describes the essential features of exchanges of married copreneurs, and predicts relationship satisfaction, progress or decay.You can’t. There are no guarantees in life. But you CAN hedge your bets and set up a good framework that supports your entire work/family life.

I did in-depth research on the dynamics of copreneurs for my book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home. I learned there are a number of human behavior theories, one of them being a dialectical theory known as social exchange theory, which sheds light on what makes some couples succeed where others don’t.


Social psychologists, Kelley and Thibaut defined the basic propositions of social exchange theory in this way:

(I) costs being equal, individuals choose alternatives from which they expect the greatest rewards;
(2) rewards being equal, individuals choose alternatives from which they anticipate the fewest costs;
(3) immediate outcomes being equal, individuals choose alternatives that promise better long-term outcomes;
(4) long-term outcomes being equal, individuals choose alternatives providing better immediate outcomes.

These basic propositions of social exchange theory can be used to describe the  essential features of exchanges in married couples. They can also be used to predict relationship satisfaction, relationship progress, and relationship decay.

For all married couples, the exchange context includes trading with one's partner for love, sex, status, and life support. However, entrepreneurial couples—especially copreneurs because they work together—makes this trade with their spouses for self-esteem, mastery, and achievement. Whereas other couples have a wider variety of resources from which to negotiate exchanges (i.e., colleagues, employers, fellow workers, as well as their spouse), copreneurs must negotiate their love and work needs only from one another. Therefore, the potential for stress is heightened.

In other words, a trap that many entrepreneurial couples fall into is getting locked into deriving all of their rewards from work and spending money (i.e., immediate rewards). Since they work together and live together, they spend all of their time together. They only have themselves to compare to, so there’s no way of knowing when they’re heading into a major problem. As long as the rewards (i.e., work and money) outweighed the costs, the couple won’t notice the other rewards or benefits of marriage and family life may be slipping away.

It takes something catastrophic like a liquor bottle being thrown in the heat of an argument to alert them that the immediate costs to their quality of life no longer outweighed the long-term gain of business wealth.

On the other hand, when a couple has a well-developed system for maintaining a healthy balance in their lives, they won’t get blindsided. What are three must have rules of conduct in this system?

  • Keep business discussions at the office and family/relationship discussions at home.
  • Be sure you are equal business partners, giving each other full credit and respect for your separate contributions.
  • Insist on developing individual private lives.

With outside contacts, you’ll have other people in your lives with whom you can trade for feelings of self-esteem, mastery, and achievement. And this can make all the difference in the world.

You don’t have to be one of those couples that waits for something to go very wrong before waking up to problems and doing something about them. If you’re already experiencing problems in your work/life balance and need help getting back on track, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for business and/or family relationships via a secure video Q & A session. This would come under the heading of Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

Is Mansplaining Keeping You from Being Heard?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


If men interrupt and hijack your conversations, or you’re a man who does the hijacking and people are tuning you out, then you’re a victim of mansplaining.Do people, men especially, interrupt you and hijack every conversation you try to have? Or are you a man who does the hijacking, and you sense that people are tuning you out? Either way, you’ve become a victim of mansplaining. “What’s that”, you ask? While Merriam-Webster hasn’t included mansplaining in their dictionary yet, they’re considering adding it. Their website defines it as:

“Mansplaining occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does.”

A recent op-ed in the NYTimes by Julia Baird summarizes a number of studies and the ramifications of differing communication style between men and women. Here are some of her conclusions…

Women are accused of talking a lot, but social science has found that men are more likely to out talk women in certain circumstances, specifically in professional settings or in larger groups. They discovered that when the setting is more social or more collaborative in nature, women out talked men.

The differences aren’t only in the amount of time men and women spend talking. Men talk more directly and forcefully. Women are more likely to censor or edit themselves. They use phrases like “kind of,” “probably”, “might”, “could”, “maybe,” “um,” and “I mean.” They also turn sentences into questions, as if to ask “am I right”. They worry about being viewed as too aggressive if they speak up.

This shows that having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice in the discussion. Women have been taught to be self-deprecating, to not make a scene, to keep the peace. So we may learn patterns of speech that minimize our power. As more women assume leadership roles, it’s imperative that we pay attention to our communication style and bring it in line with the positions of authority that we hold. If you do, you’ll find that most men really do want to hear what you have to say.

Perhaps long held thoughts and feelings are holding you back from being heard in professional settings? Or maybe you’re married to a man with a dominating communication style that stifles your ability to be heard? If you want to learn to communicate more effectively, as an individual or a couple, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for business and/or family relationships via a secure video Q & A session. This would come under the heading of Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

Are You Mentally and Emotionally Prepared to Retire from Your Job?

Monday, April 25, 2016


Determine if you’re mentally and emotionally prepared to retire from your job, by answering these questions about retirement, because it’s not just about finances.“If I retired, I’d have more time with the grandkids. I’d get to enjoy my hobby more. I could finally relax. I wouldn’t have to get up so early and always be on all the time.”

Do thoughts like these cross your mind? If you’re of the baby boomer generation, it’s imperative to give retirement preparation serious consideration right now. And not all your decisions should be based on whether you’re financially prepared to enjoy your retirement. Whether your retirement is successful or not depends more on your emotional and mental preparation.

Before you hand in your retirement notice, ask yourself these questions:

Does your present job give you fulfillment or purpose? Then it may not be time to walk away from it. How will you spend your time? What life direction will you take? Do you have something planned that will give you more purpose in life? You don’t want to end up feeling bored, restless and useless.

Do you want to retire because you hate your job? Perhaps retiring isn’t the answer. What you really might need is to find a new career that fulfills you. Why not try volunteering for a worthy cause, which in time could lead you to a new vocation.

How will retirement affect your social life? If your entire social life revolves around work, you may end up feeling alone when you retire. It would be good to make sure you have a good social network in place before you step into retirement. On the other hand, if you’re already regretting the time you don’t spend with your family and friends, then this may be a good indicator that it’s time to think about retiring. Don’t forget to give some thought to how your choice will affect your marriage if your spouse doesn’t retire at the same time that you do.

Do you have realistic expectations of retirement? Sleeping until noon, puttering around, and staying in your pjs all day, will get old and stale quickly. You’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. How will you fill it? If you’re not already involved in activities you love outside of work, then it’s time to begin finding some that you enjoy.

Have you prepared the next generation to take over? When you’ve been at the helm of the family firm, it may be difficult to let go. As a result, your children may not be ready for the responsibility that you’ll be giving them. If they’re not ready, start formulating a plan to train them today.

Have you built up a stewardship? As an entrepreneur, do you take your responsibility seriously to give back to the community who supported your growth? You can read the story of Bob Thompson who is a sterling example of stewardship.

Change inevitably brings stress. Some people are not as well equipped to handle it as they thought. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a professional coach or family therapist. She can help you sort out your feelings and get you back on track. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Men vs. Women When Making Decisions - Can You Leverage Your Differences?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Differences in how men and women communicate and make decisions can drive you crazy unless you learn to integrate or reconcile these communication styles.Have you ever wondered why the symbol for "Justice" is a woman and she's blind to boot? Or another curiosity is that the statue in New York harbor, representing the United States of America is Lady Liberty. What is it that these female spirits represent? Why are women the symbol of our judicial system and the country as a whole?

 

One of the most interesting areas of the dynamics between men and women is how they make decisions. One way I sum it up is that men make the first best decision, but women seek out the best-best decision. In the fashion of Lady Justice (where the blindfold represents impartiality), women look at all sides of an issue before deciding anything. They value everyone's opinion in the process of moving toward a decision. They may have a strong opinion themselves, but like the blind Lady, they’re willing to stay impartial until they’ve gathered enough information from others.

 

Men on the other hand seek to move the situation along as swiftly as possible. Regardless of everyone's view, men tend to value the efficiency of getting to the answer quickly. If a man has an opinion, dialogue with others is not always to merely gather information, but to persuade others toward his point of view.

How does this dynamic work when a husband/wife team needs to make decisions together? If they understand each other well, then the decision-making dynamic is powerful. If they don't, then each party can feel very misunderstood.

 

For example, if the wife is gathering information from her husband then she may initiate a discussion with her husband. He often doesn't hear that she wants to discuss the subject. Rather he hears that she wants him to make a decision. Therefore he tells her his decision and considers the discussion completed. She leaves unfulfilled because she wants to toss ideas around before a decision is made. Later when the husband's decision is not carried out, the husband may feel frustrated because he thought a decision had been made.

 

Sound familiar? It's because women tend to have discussions and men tend to go strait to decisions. When a wife recognizes that her husband has a need to get things done as efficiently as possible, she can refocus her energy onto solutions, even if she would like just a little more discussion.

The different decision-making styles can be an asset, if there is an integration of the male perspective and the female perspective. However, often a husband and wife get stuck because they do not recognize the dynamic that is going on. They often find it beneficial to consult with a professional who can facilitate this discussion. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment.

 

Read more on my website: Conflict & Communication.

 

The Entrepreneurial Lifestyle – Are You Making the Most of It or Just Making Do?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The entrepreneurial lifestyle has definite pros and cons, yet you don’t have to “make do” with your current situation – learn how to make the most of life.From my experience counseling and researching entrepreneurial couples, I’ve learned a great deal about how couples negotiate the stressful daily transitions from home to work and back again. By and large they’re doing a pretty good job.

What are the cons of the entrepreneurial lifestyle? These couples are stressed, to be sure; they are facing fatigue; they have marital problems; they feel guilty about the little quality time spent with their children; they make personal compromises in order to get ahead in their careers; and they make career compromises in order to keep the family stable.

What are the pros of the entrepreneurial lifestyle? But entrepreneurial couples also feel as though they are making a real contribution to the community. They are creating a future for their children; they can bring intellectually stimulating conversation to the dinner table; they can afford dream vacations; they can be a force politically.

Regardless of their personal pros and cons most entrepreneurial couples say they would not live any other way.


The problem is that entrepreneurial couples are not the type of people who like doing a "pretty good job." They’re not content with just "making do." They’re the kind of people who like to excel, or they would not both be pursuing meaningful, demanding careers. And they’re the kind of people who like "having it all."

It appears, however, that many entrepreneurial couples are just making do. Because many of these couples have no models to guide them in planning and implementing the entrepreneurial couple life, they tend to follow the outdated models of their parents or grandparents.

For example, without thinking, some entrepreneurial couples continue to divide home responsibilities along traditional gender lines. Women do the laundry, the cooking, and the cleaning. Men do the yard work, home repairs, and auto maintenance. For entrepreneurial couples, this is especially a problem when they also divide work responsibilities along traditional gender lines, not taking into consideration the training and talents of each partner. For example, some attorney wives are also the office manager for their husband-and-wife law firm.

While most entrepreneurial couples just make do, the purpose of my book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home, is to teach you how to make the most of your entrepreneurial lifestyle. This is not just another pop psychology book with a cookie-cutter approach. Instead, it digs into your beliefs and values where deep, meaningful change really happens.

Have you ever read a book and wished you could ask the author a question?
The good news is you can ask me. Just book a private Q & A session with me via the phone or through an online video program. This is an opportunity for us to discuss follow-up questions after you’ve read my book for Entrepreneurial Couples or perused my website. If you know you want to make the most of your life as an entrepreneurial couple instead of just making do I look forward to talking with you!

Get further details here.

Improve Your EQ, not Your IQ, for More Successful Relationships

Monday, March 28, 2016


Improve Your EQ, not Your IQ, for More Successful Relationships"She has a sixth sense and always knows what to do and say." "He can always close a deal." "They always make the right decisions." Do you envy people who have those gifts? How do they do it? Research demonstrates that not all success in life is determined by IQ, but may rest more on how perceptive one is with regard to emotional intelligence (EQ or EI).

Emotional intelligence has to do with 1) how you recognize, understand and manage your own emotions and 2) how you recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others, especially under high-pressure situations.

How do we develop this side of ourselves and how do we integrate this information with your thinking process? It appears to be a matter of mastering the following three steps:

#1 Put a name to your feelings. Feelings are things like joy, irritation, hunger, fatigue, boredom, confusion, pain, anticipation, pride, embarrassment, tension, and so on. The list is endless and I often advise my clients to get a thesaurus or dictionary and copy down as many "feeling" words as they can find. It is important to refine your repertoire of feelings and feeling words so that you can expand your consciousness about your EQ.

It’s also important to remember that you always feel your feelings first. Because of how you are "wired" thoughts or interpretations come after feelings. So it is useful to notice those feelings consciously before your conscious mind decides to ignore them or misinterpret them.

#2 Interpret those feelings that you have just noticed. The key element here is to realize that feelings are basically neutral. That is, they are neither good nor bad; they are just feedback. For example, anger may feel unpleasant to you and therefore, something to suppress. However, the feeling of anger is neither good nor bad; it is just feedback about something that is important for you to know. Try to view all of your feelings as feedback about the way you sense your environment. One person may be triggered to feel angry about something, while another may be triggered to laugh.

#3 Act on the information you have interpreted from your feelings. If you feel hungry or fatigue, it’s easy to make a decision to eat or sleep. But decision-making is more complex when the feelings are part of a financial plan for your business or a problematic relationship. This is where EQ really helps. Individuals who have trusted their EQ throughout childhood and have refined and developed those skills into adult life are in a much better position to make successful decisions.

You’ll improve any situation, be it familial or business, if you improve your EQ. When you’re able to feel your feelings, interpret them correctly, and then act upon that information, you have an advantage over those who rely solely on intellect to make decisions. If this is a subject you’d like to explore in more detail, take advantage of my Remote Education services. This topic comes under the umbrella of Entrepreneurial Couples.

Read more on my website: Emotional Intelligence.

Parents – Are You Teaching Your Children All They Need to Know About Sex?

Monday, March 21, 2016


Young people need to have good parental training and examples in order to have a healthy view of sex, so they can navigate through life successfully.As a psychologist and family business coach, I’ve seen it too often. Even with abundant litigation for sexual harassment in the workplace, infidelity and harassment are still ongoing problems because the underlying cause isn’t being addressed.

Like eating and drinking, the sex drive is a normal and necessary part of human life. Unfortunately, much of what people learn about appropriate sexual behavior is gathered from unreliable sources such as television, movies or pornography, or worse, through exploitation by unethical adults.

As with most human skills, sex can be used in a positive healthy way or it can be used to abuse and manipulate. Sex can lead to pleasure and a love bond within a relationship. Or sex can lead to pain, suffering, and corruption.

Other than a perfunctory sex-education class in public school, where the emphasis is on health and procreation, a young adult needs to learn about sexual techniques, or the relationship between sex and love, or the subtleties of sex in the workplace. But where are they going to learn about sexual ethics if the parents aren’t teaching them?

I have met few parents who openly discuss sexuality with their kids. Most parents tell me they’re more than willing to answer any questions their kids ask about sex, as if any kid in their right mind will tell their parents they’re thinking about sex!

I wrote an article recently for PsychCentral that shows how this lack of education and parental example plays out by examining the case of the Smith Family Firm. (Fictional names to protect the identities.) You’ll see how sexual improprieties affect the family, employees, vendors, business associates, and customers. (Click here to read the entire article.)

So, why do people risk sexual infidelity?

Besides a lack of education, sexual misbehavior is essentially a signal of a deeper problem. It’s a message about a much needed change in a person’s life and relationships. If you’re struggling with this yourself or you don’t know how to talk with your children, please don’t hesitate to seek professional, confidential help from a psychologist. As embarrassing as it is to bring these things out, it’s more embarrassing to pass the problem along to the next generation. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Love, Sex and Intimacy.

Is A Manipulative Personality Ruining Your Family Life?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Find out if a manipulative personality is ruining your family life by discovering overt and subtle ways that you may be conned or ways you are conning others.No one likes to feel manipulated or conned into doing something that they don’t want to do, whether it’s because of ethical reasons or personal preference. It leaves you feeling violated – understandably so. The word con is actually an abbreviation for confidence. Therefore the con game is really the confidence game. The success of the game is to create confidence within the victim for the manipulator.

By having confidence in the con artist, we’re handing over our trust, or temporarily suspending our disbelief. No matter how outrageous the con's behavior, once that person has your trust and confidence, the con artist can have their way with you.

Some of you may already know some of the signals of a scam and pride yourself on escaping. Some of the less well-known signals are more intuitive, however.

What are some subtle signals that you’re being manipulated?

  • Feeling ashamed without there being a good reason.
  • Feeling overly impressed or awed by a peer.
  • Feeling special or flattered by attention from someone you hardly know.
  • Finding out there’s no pay off for you.
  • Discovering you’re being used because you’re doing more work than the other person in the relationship.
  • Always hearing “good” excuses for why the other person never seems to come through for you.

Less recognizable are the signals that YOU are doing the manipulation. If it’s been your life pattern for a long time, you might not even be aware of it. Here are a few indicators:

1. How often do you say: "I didn't mean to…" Can this really be manipulation? Well, ask yourself how you feel when the tables are turned. Don’t you feel mad, confused, hurt, or trapped? The person who uses the "I didn't mean it" con game is not taking full responsibility for their actions. It's as if no harm was done if the person didn't mean it. So the next time those words start forming on your lips, stop and make a straightforward apology for your actions and offer to clean up the problem, whether you committed the deed accidentally or intentionally.

2. Do you bully others into submission or charm them into acquiescing, when deep down inside they don’t agree with you? Really, what kind of agreement do you have? How much support are you going to get in the long run? Have you increased your family's trust or are they just afraid of you?

3. Do you make frequent and generous promises which you don’t fulfill? Perhaps you keep lunch dates waiting for hours, dismissing it with the excuse that you’re such a busy person. You expect people to always make allowances for your “little foibles”.

If you truly want to prosper as a family, then be committed to cleaning up these covert confidence games that you’re playing with the ones you love. It can help to enlist the assistance of a dispassionate professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment, so we can work on making your family truly happy and secure.

Entrepreneurs - How to Develop a Spiritual Plan for a Happy and Healthy Lifestyle

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Entrepreneurs - How to Develop a Spiritual Plan for a Happy and Healthy LifestyleWorking long hours, working out of your home, or working and living with your spouse/business partner twenty-four hours a day leaves little time to recuperate inner strength. As the stress increases and the opportunity for recuperation diminishes, many entrepreneurial couples fall victim to stress related illnesses, mental or emotional problems, chemical dependency, and spiritual despair.

The process of losing your health (physical, psychological, interpersonal or otherwise) begins long before symptoms develop. The stress process begins the moment you allow any part of your life to be out of alignment. If one system (such as your body, your marriage, or your work) is unattended or allowed to stay out of healthy alignment for too long, it affects the other systems, which in turn produce stress and deterioration.

If you are going to manage the excessive stresses of entrepreneurial life you actually need more stamina than the average person. To combat the pressures caused by the competing demands of love and work and to build the necessary stamina for this complex lifestyle, you must build a power plan to maintain and enhance your health not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.

How can you develop a spiritual plan for your entrepreneurial lifestyle?


Spirit or spirituality is not synonymous with religion or religious. Rather the spirit is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life. For entrepreneurial couples especially, the key to effective stress management is the proper alignment and interaction of a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy spirit.

Even if your life has led you in one of these stressful directions, don't despair. Make meaning of the experience and put the disaster into the context of your life. Then reorient that life to meet your values.

If one of those values is a belief in God, yet you are not attending to that spiritual relationship, the balance in your life is compromised and will inevitably lead you to some form of personal or interpersonal dysfunction. On the other hand, if you develop a stronger sense of self as belonging to something larger than just this earthly existence, and you make a commitment to that higher self (i.e. through prayer or inner contemplation), even when you have suffering, you will have a meaningful and prosperous life to share with the ones you love and work with.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere, you can schedule a remote education session, and then we can discuss how to make your business/home life thrive.

Read more: Spiritual Component Essential to Healthy Entrepreneurial Life.

 



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