The Insurance Dudes

Challenge, Change, and Continuous Innovation: A Conversation with Jeremy Utley PART 2

December 18, 2023 The Insurance Dudes: Craig Pretzinger & Jason Feltman Season 3 Episode 657
The Insurance Dudes
Challenge, Change, and Continuous Innovation: A Conversation with Jeremy Utley PART 2
Show Notes Transcript

Insurance dudes sit down with Jeremy Utley, one of the world's leading experts in innovation and co-author of "Ideaflow: The Only Business Metric That Matters,” to have a thought-provoking conversation! Challenging the conventional concept of innovation, Jeremy talks about how innovation can be cultivated continuously.

Bringing the idea of “disruptive innovation” into the limelight, Jeremy discusses how a culture that promotes unconventional, disruptive, or downright “stupid” ideas thrives more!
 The insightful conversation then flows towards “The Flow Approach,” where the hosts and their guests, discuss how integrating innovation into their day-to-day lives is important and fruitful.
 The seasoned professor at Stanford University urges people to embrace change and challenge conventional methods to create fresh mindsets ready to adapt to the ever-changing insurance industry.
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Craig Pretzinger & Jason Feltman
The Insurance Dudes

Jason Feltman:

The best marketers on the planet, test a billion hooks to find the hook that works like it's just every single word good. And each one like each genius marketer that you see, will tell you the same thing. Some ideas that I come up with I think are going to be gangbusters fall flat, most of them do. And like they just let the market dictate the result. Insurance

Craig Pretzinger:

dudes are on a mission to escape, being handcuffed by our agents,

Jason Feltman:

Tao by uncovering the secrets to creating a predictable, consistent and profitable agency Sales Machine.

Craig Pretzinger:

I am Craig Pretzinger.

Jason Feltman:

I am Jason Feldman.

Craig Pretzinger:

We are agents.

Jason Feltman:

We are insurance.

Jeremy Utley:

So just to make it super pragmatic, we're gonna we're gonna name this podcast, you can't use my name, right? So meaning like, because you're gonna put this out in the world, right? And you're gonna go like, probably, I mean, by the way, listeners, I have no inside knowledge of this. There's probably some kind of like, one of you will say, hey, what if we call it that? And the other one will either say, Yeah, that's good. Or I can make this better. And then the other one probably say, okay, cool. But there's no sense of what are 100? By the way, we can use Chad GPT now, so it's not all right. What are our 100 possible titles for this episode? Because the default? Is that kind of the default orientation is we need the right answer. Now, and this isn't a math problem, you'll like a math problem as one right answer. Right, right. The name of this episode, there is no right answer, right? You're looking for the best answer, right? But it's not about right and wrong. And yet our default orientation is what's the what's the best? What's the good one? What's the right, rather than what are a ton, you know, and then the way you we've actually been doing some research with generative AI to understand how do human beings even kind of leverage AI to get maximum potential out of it? And what's funny is, you come to AI, you do the same thing that you do yourself. You just you're, it's called satisficing, Herbert Simon won the Nobel Prize back in the 50s. For this, people settle for good enough, right. And so what you got to do is you got to kind of trip your goal, you got to change your orientation and say, it's actually not about right, it's about lots.

Jason Feltman:

I love that it what you just said reminds me of the book, from good to great. And it's Good is the enemy of great because that's where you stop. Yeah, right. Like, it's totally so true. And as we get older, Craig and I deal with this. I mean, you see, you see older, I always wonder why why do old people older people say like, I'm not good at this, I'm not good at technology, I'm not. And they define these things. And it's like, it's an I, as I'm getting older, I see that things seem to be getting harder, or like I stopped learning about these things. And it's like, oh, my gosh, like, I hit these plateaus of which I feel that that's enough. And then it's like, for some reason, shut it off, where it's like, I'm not constantly like, like a child. Right? We're not curious. Right? Curiosity? Yeah,

Craig Pretzinger:

we're not bringing curiosity to the thing. It

Jeremy Utley:

makes you wonder, sorry, Kevin Kelley, you know, one of my heroes is Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired Magazine. And to this day, he has a daily art practice, recreates a piece of art every day. But now instead of painting as he used to, he used his mid journey and Dolly and he's using generative AI to create art. But he I mean, you can follow him on Twitter. Every day, there's a new image. And they're striking, they're stunning. But he's to me, he's a good example of somebody who's kind of put himself in on that learning edge. And he said, I'm gonna learn in public. And that's going to be my accountability so that I don't kind of I don't let myself off the hook. But I think it's exceptionally rare. I think having a podcast actually is a great way to do that. Right? You're forcing yourself to learn and interface with new ideas. And now there's still the question of Do you do anything with it? Do you? Do you just you know, is it water off a duck's back? Or do you really internalize it, you operationalize it, but to me, like, the first step is actually just a matter of surface area and a podcast actually a fantastic mechanism for increasing the surface area of your likelihood of encountering new information. For one second, what what most people don't realize is, how do you spark your imagination? The way you spark your imagination is to expose it to new information. Very simply, new and unexpected inputs are the things that trigger and, you know, going back to, you know, Copernicus, or is it Kepler? Yeah, I mean, Copernican in nature, but Kepler, you know, that the thing that's amazing. The prevailing view at that time was the the heavens were a firmament, literally, they were fixed. It was a thing like a fixed thing, right? And Kepler Yohannes, Kepler, looking up in the night sky one night, he sees a shooting star. This is a new input. Right? And the question that came to his mind was, why isn't the firmament cracking hmm And if the firmament is not cracking, and that thing is moving, it can't be firmament, whatever it is. It's not firmaments. Right, right. But the point is, new information is what sparked this radical leap of imagination. And what I think getting back maybe some years and second to Jason is like, as we, as we grow, and as we can, you can say, as we burrow. Yeah, we become more and more insulated. We don't we don't expose ourselves to new information. You know, like my, I get like, you asked me for a story at the beginning another great story, like I was working with an unnamed auto manufacturer, and I found out all their executives, this is mind blowing to me. One, they never have to fill up their own cars, because a gasoline truck drives around the parking lot. Okay, oh, my God talking about installation. The other thing, they never have to go through the financing process, because whenever the new model of the car comes out, the company just swapped it out for all the executives,

Craig Pretzinger:

why would they want to see how it works? Dude, right? But

Jeremy Utley:

it's like, you wonder why the experience sucks, right? No one who has the authority to change it has ever experienced how bad it is?

Craig Pretzinger:

No, they're having a great experience. You mean, everybody doesn't get their car filled up. And when they

Jeremy Utley:

just hammer the point is if they would allow themselves a new experience, they would they would get information that would trigger them, like, what can we do to reinvent this? But they've never had that question, because they've never viscerally experienced, or even probably talk to, you know, the kind of person who's in there haggling over you know, dollars and cents for a financing deal. Right? But

Craig Pretzinger:

then they're not right anymore. So So

Jeremy Utley:

yeah, they have to, they have to sacrifice their belief that they know everything. Right? Yeah.

Jason Feltman:

Crazy. Crazy. I love that. I, I love that. It reminds me of like, I mean, I was an employee most of my life and then became a business owner seven years ago. But I mean, I, you know, I was for longer than that over 15 years, I was employee so I know what it feels like to like be on the front lines and have the business owner that doesn't really understand it. And like, you're on the frontline, you're like, but but this is what's really going on. They're like, No, we're gonna do it this way. And feeling like Dude, if I was running this, I know exactly what to do. And they're not making those moves, because they're not seeing it from the frontline. So it's just an interesting like, how we do move on and we don't, at some point, we like, lose touch with that. And don't don't plug back into that ground floor.

Jeremy Utley:

Works is not efficient, right. Like, if you watch a child play it's maddening. Because it's like, this is just attach it. You know, it's like, yeah, yeah. Like, I don't know about you, like I have, I have four daughters, and one is still very small. And we walk on the block. It's like the most it's I mean, the irony of it is not lost on me, because it's utterly hypocritical for me to like, want to get through this walk so fast. Right, right. But I watched her she wonders that everything and everything it everything is from like a caloric perspective, it's incredibly expensive. And so we stopped wondering, and then we stop imagining, but then we ended up in a in a place where we get disrupted, right? And, but we can't do it everywhere all the time. We never get anything done. Right. So there are really good reasons why we bias towards efficiency. And we focus on that we have heuristics, heuristics work for a reason. It's just whenever they get toppled, and we've seen this in society, we've seen it in business, as you know, you know, who is like Kodak, they missed the digital revolution, right? And they invented digital photography, they were the holders of all the patents. Right? So it shouldn't have blindsided anybody. Right. But that patent? Yeah, exactly. So anyway, it's, it's it is a paradox. But the leaders who say, you know, how do I unleash my people, you know, especially people on the frontlines who are interfacing with the problems who are, you know, a lot of leaders will say, don't bring me problems, bring me solutions. That's not an innovation leader. Right. And innovation leader says, I love problems. That's a good one. What are we gonna do about that? Right? Because they recognize me to say the most like kindergarten obvious thing in this entire show. A problem is a necessary precondition to a solution. Right? And so the people who you people who attend to problems tend to just caught lightning, lightning can strike people who pay attention to problems more, you know, and yet, you know, for a lot for a lot of leaders, they go, No, I just want solutions. Just tell me the answer. Well, the best questions don't have easy answers. And so if you just want my answers, I'm going to give you the easy problems and the easy answers rather than the this is not straightforward. And it's inconvenient, and it's inefficient, right. And so you have to a lot of times it ultimately gets down to the pragmatics of how do we create the space to know Don't just do the efficient thing, but also work effectively in regards to the future. And right now, what a lot of people are doing is they're kind of they're they're trading future profitability for present urgency. And that's a it's a fool's bargain.

Jason Feltman:

So do you, when you talk to leadership? Do you train them on creating margin for like contemplation and

Jeremy Utley:

have to have to? Yeah, we'll do a calendar audit for sure. To show me your calendar. You know, it's, it's and here's, here's a simple exercise, say, what are two or three things like we can play through it if you want, but I'll just I'll give you that anybody listening can just do this practically for yourself? Consider your present business, consider what's going on and just say, what are two or three things that if you gave them effort and attention, had the potential to really move the needle in a meaningful way? Two or three things? Take one of those things, just start with it. Hopefully, everybody's got some in their mind. How much time? Would you need to give that thing per week, in order to really kind of give it appropriate valence for me as I interface with it? Like, I'll just tell you all one thing that I've thought is I should be devoting more effort to outbound efforts to book keynotes I do I do keynotes that come inbound, and with a book, you know, you get like a little bit of inbound, but I've never really unleashed outbound. And so as I went through, I actually went through his daughter size myself, I use all the, you know, like the surgeon who operates on himself first. I said, you know, what, I need like two or three hours, probably per week to really be dedicated. And then the next thing is, Okay, open your calendar, and block two or three hours per week for the next six months. And you go, Wait, why? Sorry, why? Go? Okay. That's the next thing, right? And you go, Well, my calendar is crazy for the next couple weeks. Okay, great, starting three weeks from now, lock two or three hours per week, and just call it for me out downed keynote, you know, drumming, whatever, it doesn't matter drum up in. And then here's the interesting thing, look at your calendar for the past month. And total up the total number of hours that you spent doing the thing that you said would be a meaningful impact to your business. Almost always that number is you know, it's it's a it's a fraction. It's not even a whole integer, right. When you go well, how are you expecting to move the business forward if you aren't creating space to do that? Right. Yeah, most people I have observed this. And I see again, like I see it in a mirror for myself first, but it's like, we play calendar, Tetris. And the blocks are coming in and we're like, good, good, good, good, good. Good. Could get Keke, you were fitting everything in and we go I don't have time for the strategic stuff. It's like okay, doofus. Everything to the rails that you write what you know, it's like the classic big rocks. It's like, if you don't put the big rocks in the jar first. Don't be surprised that the thing fills up with sand, you know, period. Yeah.

Jason Feltman:

I love that. Yeah, it's so important. And it is funny out once we get past it, we do look back. And it's like, you know, you let you let all the little distractions. Take your day, you don't take the day. And

Craig Pretzinger:

I think our world it's so easy to get lost in the BS of of being an operator instead of being an owner. And it took years for me, it took me years to shift from like, I don't talk to the customers anymore. Right? Like I am doing strategic things. We have the other businesses, but we've had it took a took a plan to get there. Right. There was strategy involved to pull me out and fire myself. Yeah, but I mean, that's it's life changing. Right? That's a totally different thing than being in there taking payments and telling myself that it's moving the needle because now they like me, because I'm it's like, no, no,

Jeremy Utley:

no. What how did that realization dawn upon you and your business?

Craig Pretzinger:

It was actually a lot of talking with with Jason Jason I met and we were on the phone a lot and and just just chatting all the time before we started the podcast, but

Jason Feltman:

we were just one of my highest strengths in like strength finder and everything is like futurist and so like I'm always like, my favorite thing to do is strategically plan stuff like I do not like working in the business. I love working on the biz. I love thinking ahead. I love coming up with strategies. My problem is like the implementation especially consistency of that where I need to put people in place to do that because I just Yeah, your board.

Craig Pretzinger:

I do we get very excited in the board. Move on to the

Jeremy Utley:

devils in the details there right and then it but it's understanding where the tendency I think of most folks is to get caught up with I mean, I cannot tell you I wish I I actually need to find it because I wanted to do like an Instagram post about it. But I wanted to ask people what where are they stuck? Yeah, this is like I'm in a session with 40 executives at, you know, global, you know, fortune 100 company. They've got 40 executives. And we're just gonna roleplay this little thing. It's like, where are you stuck? What are you trying? What else could you try? When are you going to do it? What's next simple thing where everyone got hung up was I don't have time to do this. It's weak. Why? I don't. Anytime it's like, okay, that is that. It's, it's it's so meta. Right. But I think people have they've mistaken this notion of attending meetings with actually making progress. And movement is not all movement is progress, right. And there's a lot of movement right now that basically hamster wheeling, rather than actually advancing work. And I've often said, Yes, leaders, if there's no new information, there's there's no new conversation. And so what what is the what are you going to do in the next week, that's creating new information that begets a new conversation. And for a lot of people, it's an unlock, because you go, it's only in taking action that we're creating, you know, there's a lot of talking about big data. Right now, I'm a big believer in little data, where, through scrappy experiments and low resolution, low resolution prototypes, you're actually creating meaningful datasets from which you can make better decisions. But if you don't get in the habit of commissioning scrappy experiments, you don't have that you don't have that data, to actually have conviction about putting resources towards a particular direction, right? The

Craig Pretzinger:

architecture behind the big data may be designed so that it just fulfills what the designers wanted. Right? Yeah. Yeah.

Jeremy Utley:

There's a lot of data that's basically survey data, which is asking people their opinion, which is useless, right? You know, Henry Ford, if I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse. Right. All right, you don't it's you're not asking opinions, what designers are doing is they're creating data by creating experiences or decision points that reveal what people actually do. Because as far as they're concerned, they're actually doing it. You know, one of my favorite examples we tell in the book, you'll you guys love this. I'm working with a team at Bridgestone that was trying to create a new kind of a services product because you know, tires are largely commodities, and they wanted to create a services business. And one of the opportunity areas they found was Uber drivers. Lyft drivers had this. They felt real angst about when they had to have like a tire repair, for example, because like for, you know, the average member of the population, it's like, your flat I mean, a flat is kind of equally inconvenient. Whenever, right, right, Uber drivers like you know what a flat on a Friday is way more inconvenient than a flat on a Tuesday because if I don't, I lose 50 bucks revenue flat on a Friday, I'm losing like $1,000 in revenue. So if I'm going to do maintenance, I want to do it on a cheap day rather than an expensive day from an opportunity cost perspective. So the the Bridgestone team developed to the call to tread alert, a very simple system, that base or this was even an idea forget, like the technology. It's an idea of what if there's a mat that it can instantaneously retread and then give a recommendation about when to take preventative action so that your weekend didn't get blown up? Okay. Well, what Erika Wallace, she's the head of innovation, she said, or nearly as they throw that idea over the wall to r&d, and then r&d is going to do like lead Star Wars laser technology to figure out like down to the ninth decimal place, can we measure tire tread with a matte? And what we say is answer the right question. The right question is not Can we do it technologically The right question is should we do it? Does a human being want us to do it? And realize that the question is should we not? Can we the way you answer should we is totally different than can we? And our team is needed six months are needed for the Can we question for the should we question they went to Target and they bought several bathmats. And they put bathmats in a parking spot. They looked like sensors, right? And then they had a sign saying Bridgestone tread alert space number 176. Right? And then if people came in, and they would send them a canned text message, and then they would see how do they respond? Right? That's encouraging always they're trying to figure out does learning something that we believe is urgent, affect the like, does it does it cause someone to take preventative action? Can I get a rental car? Or they get whatever? Right? And if if they're whatever, then let's not spend six months and$500,000 of r&d time building this thing? Right? They're urgent and they want to take action and it affects their behavior by all means let's commission and r&d exploration right. But the but to me like the magical thing with what Erica and her team did, there is a thought they're very clever in commissioning the right experiment and a lot of times we'll But the big kind of unlock for people is getting clever about how do I design a high learning experiment? That's like, I think the I think their total bill from Target was like$14.60. Like, that's not really give us an expensive thing, right? They were really thoughtful about how do we keep it cheap? How do we keep learning cheap? So we don't so so that failure is not expensive?

Jason Feltman:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. So So tell us a little bit about the book. Obviously, we can get the book on Amazon.

Jeremy Utley:

Yes, please do.

Jason Feltman:

I always, I always ask people, where can where can we get it? But clearly, we know. So it was released a year ago.

Jeremy Utley:

Yeah, just came out, October 2022. And I, you know, we've been kind of on the podcasts who are on the speaking tour. And I, you know, what I would say is, I feel the book is getting great reception everywhere that people read it, and they, but I don't feel like we have found our tribe really, personally, you know, I don't know if you've heard that James clear. He kind of he talks about with atomic habits. He tried VCs, it didn't really take off there, he tried homeschool moms, it didn't really take off there, he tried CrossFitters. And it just kind of, you know, for whatever reason, in the CrossFit community, you can think like, existentially, you know, good habits are just as important to venture capital, as they are homeschooling as they are at CrossFit. But for whatever reason, the CrossFit community kind of took it up and ran it. And now it's like, you know, Uber bestseller. I think for me, where I see ideal flow right now, as everybody reads, it loves it, and they tell somebody about it. But they're not, we have yet to find the community that's become like super rabid fans. And so I'm always eager to hear where are people? How are they using the tools? Where are they finding them valuable? You know, I'm interacting right now with with high school teachers, and make folks who run maker labs, right, and heads of innovation and HR officers who are all about employee engagement. And so there's, you know, and then there's the whole kind of health and wellness angle, you know, I've talked to some wellness influencers, influencers, who are going, you know, creative health is actually it's a thing nobody's really paying attention to. So all I'd say there's a bunch of different areas where people are finding relevancy. And of course, my mom doesn't think it's a business book at all. My mom thinks it's a life, you know, it's a self help book, which it is. But all that say, you know, we're we're eager to be finding our people. And And for folks who find these tools and these methods relevant we're, we're eager to shine a spotlight on amazing practitioners, we My favorite thing is highlighting people like Erica and Philippe and kg Z and say, these are people who are doing cool stuff in the world, you know, and hopefully, we have less stories like this Silicon Valley Bank story, the hotel story, people just getting blindsided by stuff, and more stories about people inventing the future. That's my hope for the book. I

Jason Feltman:

love it, I think I mean, from, for my, for my opinion, for what it's worth, obviously, entrepreneurs, so many people, business owners, especially now in this, you know, ever changing world, as we've spoke about for the last hour, it's like, you know, where's our business going? What other businesses am I going to invest in, right? So like business owners that are looking to pivot or interested in entrepreneurship, this is a fantastic set, something is fantastic to spur ideas, but also marketing. Marketing is another one of those things, and it's all the same concepts, right? It's it's marketing is in, it's funny with marketing, you always think like, oh, they're good marketers. And they're, like the best marketers on the planet. Test a billion hooks to find the hook that works. Like it's just every single word good. And each one and like each genius marketer that you see, will tell you the same thing. Some ideas that I come up with, I think are going to be gangbusters fall flat, most of them do and like they just let the market dictate the result. So

Jeremy Utley:

yeah, if you know if you know if people that I should study I mean, especially like in marketing, for example, i i Welcome. I am, as I said from the beginning, I'm an unashamed nerd, and purveyor of these kinds of stories. So there's somebody that I should be researching or learning more about or connecting with I welcome I welcome your recommendations.

Jason Feltman:

100% cool. Super cool, man. I love it. I'm super stoked to well listen to the book. Is it on Audible? Yeah, yeah,

Craig Pretzinger:

I already ordered it. I ordered the paper one I like the paper it too. I'm with you.

Jeremy Utley:

I like to pay for as well. Not. Not that you don't enjoy my own soul tree dulcet tones, but I like it.

Craig Pretzinger:

Are you reading it on Audible? Yeah, very cool.

Jeremy Utley:

In theory that my co author we swap chapters. Yeah, that's

Jason Feltman:

my favorite. That's awesome, man. I love it. And you have a podcast as well.

Jeremy Utley:

Yeah, painting pipe that I feature can master practitioners of the creative craft. So folks like Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar or Kevin Kelly, as we've mentioned, Linda Hill. Harvard Business School professor cokes you really are doing wildly creative things. I try to showcase their tactics and behavior so that it makes developing one's creative craft more approachable.

Jason Feltman:

I love it. Even Dude, your experiences Your stories are so I mean, there's so spring of ideas just based off of different industries that you know, most well, I'm unfamiliar with, right. Like, no, but

Jeremy Utley:

it's I mean, these themes and patterns recur across their cross industry. Yeah, they're just as applicable to somebody in insurance as they are to somebody and, you know, other industries, advertising or parenting, you know, I used to.

Jason Feltman:

Yeah, I have four kids as well. I have two daughters and two sons, ranging from four years old to 11 years old. So

Jeremy Utley:

yeah, okay. 11 as well. 14, oh,

Jason Feltman:

it's cool, man. It's like kids are the best because you do see the world totally differently. Like you're talking about walking with them and how they ponder and it's just like, and then it's a, it's almost like a mirror of a reflection of, of like, it really points out your faults, and you got to work on yourself. And it's, it's super cool. It's challenging, but super cool, man. Yeah,

Jeremy Utley:

thank you. I appreciate the I appreciate the enthusiasm. Hopefully, I'm eager to hear from your audience and what resonates for them. Yeah, folks. I mean, feel free they can reach out to me through you know, I'm easy to find Twitter, LinkedIn, you know, that sort of stuff. But I, I love I love talking to people who are seriously trying stuff in their lives and anything I can do to assist them. I'm happy to do

Jason Feltman:

I love it. Oh, and it's Jeremy at li u TLEY. What are the platforms that you're on? Yeah.

Jeremy Utley:

It's probably my biggest following. And then Twitter, Instagram, I'm experimenting with Instagram. I talked to a wellness influencer the other day who told me it's absolutely unacceptable that I'm not on Instagram. I've been I've been trying a few things, but it's tough. So it's

Craig Pretzinger:

just as tough and I see my wife on it all. It's all it's just like that. Yeah,

Jeremy Utley:

yeah. I'm trying. I'm dabbling. I don't know if you can dabble. But I haven't. You are both feet. Let's put it

Craig Pretzinger:

that way. Do you know hey, Ron,

Jeremy Utley:

I would love to and I've been on a couple emails with them. So we've we've definitely helped, but I would love to get him on the show. I would

Craig Pretzinger:

absolutely. I mean, you've had some big names. He should he should come on. He's easing is so cool. I love is I man. It's such a good podcast. Yeah, he's

Jeremy Utley:

he's remarkable. Totally remarkable. Yeah, he's, he's out of my league. Now. I think unfortunately.

Craig Pretzinger:

He's really doing it, man. He's something else. Yeah, really good. Well, thank you, Jeremy. Yeah, thank

Jason Feltman:

you so much, Jeremy. This has been an honor to this hour.

Jeremy Utley:

Yeah. My pleasure. No, I really enjoyed chat with you guys. And seriously, I mean, let me know what I can do to promote amplify, if folks reach out asking for, you know, one thing we have a bonus chapter on, it's on my website, and on the book website called how to think like Bezos in jobs, which is all about and it's free folks can download it. There's a great, as I said, these themes and mindsets and tools recur throughout disciplines. And so start to see these kinds of rhyming patterns. And the thing that makes breakthrough thinkers different is how they think. And we can all we can all think differently, too. Right? And so it's really a learned skill. And it's a learned practice that hopefully the book and you know, my writing and things like that make more accessible.

Jason Feltman:

So awesome, man. Thank

Jeremy Utley:

you so much. Yeah, yeah. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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