The Remarkable Coach

With featured guest

Shahab Anari

Shahab Anari Show

The word “decision” comes from a Latin word that means “to cut off”. 

When you cut loose from other options and get laser-focused on that one option in front of you, then you will find the way to make things work. When you’re out of options, success comes.

Coaching is one of the hardest businesses to succeed in. In this first episode of The Successful Coach Podcast, find out how Shahab Anari manages to make his coaching business thrive in a foreign country and eventually, be one of the top coaches out there.

Quick Bio:

Shahab Anari, MD is a Personal Brand Expert, International Motivational Speaker, and Best-Selling Author on resilience, who helps his audience make the impact they have always wanted to make.

Although he was not accepted into the gifted program as a kid, he came first among more than one million contenders in the fierce nation-wide University Entrance Exam in his country of birth in 1997.

He trained as a medical doctor, but he was not passionate about medicine as a career. Therefore, after graduation, he made the long and difficult transition to becoming a speaker. Now, he serves people in 19 different countries.

Although he had a very difficult first couple of years after immigrating to Canada, he was recognized as one of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants in 2020.

LinkedIn Profile:
Company website:

Doug Holt 0:24

Hi, everyone. I'm excited to have an exceptional guest with us today, Dr. Shahab Anari. Dr. Shahab is a personal branding expert, motivational speaker, international best selling author, Forbes coach. And interestingly enough, he was named on the Top 75 Canadian immigrants. I think we're just scratching the surface there. Dr. Shahab, thank you so much for being here with me.

Dr. Shahab Inari 0:50

Hi, Doug. Thanks for having me. It's an honor and a pleasure to be here.

Doug Holt 0:54

Absolutely and it was the first time you and I connected and spoke; I could feel your energy coming through. As a coach, your story is fascinating. You were able to, so people know that you want to stay on, you were able to scale a coaching business to multiple six figures in just three years. We'll talk about that coming up in a little bit. But before we get into that, I want the listeners to know just a bit of your story. Can you give me a little bit more about your journey and your background?

Dr. Shahab Inari 1:21

Absolutely. As you can probably say, from my accent, I was not born in Canada. I live in Toronto, Canada, but I was born in Iran. I'm originally from the Middle East, then I've lived in three different countries, Iran, the Netherlands, and Canada. But I was originally trained as a medical doctor. So I entered med school 20 something years ago, I finished med school. And honestly, I hated it. I hated it. I just finished it for the sake of finishing it. I just didn't want to disappoint my parents, but I was not passionate about medicine. What I loved was helping people, teaching people, training people. As a medical student, I started shifting into becoming a coach, speaker, and trainer. It grew from there, my business as a coach and speaker and trainer just kept increasing and expanding. My dislike for medicine kept growing and expanding. But honestly, even though I graduated from medical school, it wasn't a decision that I took in a snap. It took me years of contemplation and self-reflection, and you know, thinking about all the different choices. And eventually, I made a choice, I made the shift and went full time into coaching and left medicine for good.

Doug Holt 2:52

What a fantastic story. Lights me up every time you can feel your passion coming through when you talk. When you entered coaching at the starting point, who were your first types of clients or people you worked with? If it does, how does it differ from today?

Dr. Shahab Inari 3:09

Absolutely. I could say that I've been in the coaching/speaking/training space for the past 20 years. But my niche has changed over time. Part of it has been due to my move to different countries in the past few years, but part of my evolution as a subject matter expert myself evolving as a person. At first, I started by teaching, training, and coaching high school students since I was a medical student. I had academic success, as you can imagine, the parents came to me and asked me for advice, asked me for my time to help their kids get ready for the fierce nationwide exam in Iran. People want to get into the university they have this fierce nationwide exam, which they have to go through. I helped high school students in the beginning but then when I realized that I'm passionate about this field, and it's something that brings me to life, and people feel the same way. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. I started expanding my work, so I was a side gig as a medical student at first, but then it grew after a few years. I was a very well known author and speaker in my field. I went around the country and spoke at sold-out seminars, and I became successful. But after a while, I kind of hit a ceiling, and I thought I need to work with a different group of people. So I started my academy and began recruiting other trainers, teachers, and coaches who worked for me and started training, assisting, and creating those systems. I started working with entrepreneurs with university professors, all different types of professionals. Eventually, when I immigrated to Canada with my family, I honed it down, and I started working with my ideal clients, who were coaches and consultants.

Doug Holt 5:26

Fantastic. Do you feel that this is a common thread with a lot of the most successful coaches that I know is, as they evolve in their journey, their clientele evolve? Is that what you found happening for you?

Dr. Shahab Inari 5:38

The lesson that I learned that I'd learned so far is that the overarching concepts of what you do, at least as a coach or consultant in our field, in our space, the overarching concept, pretty much stays the same over the years. But your audience may change. It has changed for me. Maybe when I was a 20, something-year-old kid. The best audience for me were high school students. But now that I'm 40, something years old, maybe it's not the best audience; the fact that I'm helping other coaches and consultants build their business, it makes more sense now. Does that make any sense?

Doug Holt 6:23

It makes complete sense to me. I always find it interesting for coaches, you run into coaches, they talk to you, and you ask them, "who's your coach?" How are you continuing to sharpen your saw and the successful coaches I see almost always have one or multiple coaches in their corner. Whereas those people I would call dabbling in coaching or mentoring, they're still stuck in that whole mindset, as I like to call it. Well, I'm the coach, so, therefore, I don't need anybody to help me. So you always see this great; obviously, you're continuing your evolution in your journey. And as new insights come, I would almost call it up-leveling, right? You continue to uplevel and attract somebody at a different stage.

Dr. Shahab Inari 7:04

Yeah, absolutely. Very much. Back to the point that you made about coaches having other coaches and having their mentors. I believe in that, both from the perspective that anybody has blind spots, and everybody needs somebody to show some objective, to help them navigate their challenges. Both that and the fact that I always tell myself, if I'm selling coaching and consulting to other people, if I believe that coaching and consulting works and helps other people, then I have to invest in coaching and consulting myself, right?

Doug Holt 7:49

100%. Many of our audience are coaches and aspiring coaches, and I hope they hear this loud and clear. You want to eat your cooking, so to speak, right? Whatever you're teaching and advocating for you want to do it, it'd be kind of like a personal trainer who never works out, and he doesn't eat well, but advocates for the health of others. It just doesn't make sense, and there's no set of alignment.

Dr. Shahab Inari 8:13

Yeah, absolutely. It's all about authenticity and believing in your message, right?

Doug Holt 8:19

Yep. Absolutely. Well, I want to talk a little bit about how you went from starting this new coaching business and scaling it to multiple six-figure companies in three years. It's very rare, as you know, in our industry. So can you give us a little bit of background on how that happened?

Dr. Shahab Inari 8:36

Absolutely. So it was not a straight line. I can tell you that. As an immigrant in Canada, a few years ago, I had no network. I was starting from scratch. I knew nobody in this new country. So I started following the standard advice out there. So I started putting out content on social media. I started going to networking meetings, the usual stuff, and none of it worked. Honestly, at the end of the first year, I hit a wall, and I almost fell into depression. I started getting anxiety attacks, and my IBD, IBD is inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic disease that I've had for a while. It went into a flare. So honestly, after a year of putting in like, so many hours, every single day into this business, I spent a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of energy into building this business. And it was not working. And I didn't know why. Because I followed the usual advice, the Gurus' teachings, but it was not working out. So at the end of the first year, I came to the point where I had to make a difficult choice. I had two choices on the table. Number one, make it work in Canada. Number two, go back home. I didn't want to go back home; I had no other option. That was the only option, making it work in Canada. So many of your audience might not be people living in Canada, or it doesn't matter where you live, it doesn't matter whether you are an immigrant or not. The core lesson of the story, I believe, is that you have to decide at some point, "Is this really something you want to do for the rest of your life?"' "Is this really a goal,?" or "Is it just a wish?". And when you make that decision, and I learned some time ago, that decision comes from a word, a Latin word, I guess, the core decision is cutting, when you cut the use of other options, when you make that decision, when you release yourself of the other options. When you get laser-focused on the one option in front of you, you will get creative; you will find a way to make it work precisely what happened to me. I became humble. I have this tremendous success from back home. But I became humble. I realized that I am a nobody in my new country. Nobody knows me, so many people can't even pronounce my name correctly. So I became humble, I became a student of marketing and sales. I realized that I had to teach myself how to build a coaching business; it's not enough to be a good coach. It's not enough to have the expertise or the knowledge or be great at helping people; it's not enough. If you want to have a great coaching business, you need to know how to create awareness in the market and convert the leads you generate into paying clients. And that's totally another thing. So back to your question. How did I make it work, and how did I kind of succeed within three years? So the first year, I didn't succeed at all. It was terrible. That meant the results were awful. But then, in the second year, honestly, my business grew like three-fold. Because I started building systems, especially but the most important thing that I did in year two and year three was I made my sequence of offers and built my marketing funnels. Because honestly, Doug, I was creating leads. I was generating leads before I just couldn't convert them into paying clients. So the problem was not lead generation; the problem was lead conversion. Now that I'm working with other coaches and clients, I see the same thing. Many coaches and consultants want to help people, and they put out content on social media, go to networking meetings, generate leads, but then do nothing with them. They do nothing with the leads; they don't convert them into paying clients. Does that ring a bell for you? Does that make sense?

Doug Holt 13:10

Oh, absolutely. So in my consulting work and all companies, I just coach clients; asking for the sale is a big problem for a lot of them. But then you made a good point in; as a student of marketing and sales myself, we hear from a lot of people maybe even produce a lead magnet or an ethical carrot depending on who you're following. But then what? How do you have these people, you have them in your tribe, and you almost it's like coaching or anything else, or parenting, you need to direct them in a way that best helps them best suits them. I think all too often, and let me know your experiences. As people in general, but coaches in particular, we have such a big heart that we want to help people. Yet we forget that sales are part of that process asking for the sale. And it's almost like we lead them up and say, "Look, like and trust me, and I can do the job. Get back to me when you're ready." You know, instead of saying, "Look, the next step is getting on a discovery call" or a consultation or whatever it may be for your business, and they forget that step because they don't want to be thought of as too salesy. In reality, we're always making sales.

Dr. Shahab Inari 14:17

Yeah, absolutely. If there are no sales, and if there is no income, as Brendon Burchard says, "You can't sustain your message." And that's a beautiful way of putting it, you know, if you want to sustain your message, if you're going to support this business, if you're going to make the impact that you want to make, then you have to be able to make sales you have to be able to generate revenue. And there's nothing wrong with it. Earning money getting people to pay you for your services helps you and helps them because you and I know Doug, that when you give away your services and products to people for free, they don't value it. It isn't very worthwhile for them. I've provided my services and products and seminar tickets, and so on, for free to my friends and to my family members. And 99% of the time, they didn't even show up at the events, or they didn't even start taking advantage of the online course, or the book that I gave away to them.

Doug Holt 15:23

Oh, I can relate, I started almost 20 years ago, and I did the same thing. And the saying I always like to use is if you don't pay, you don't pay attention. It can be an overused saying, but it's true, and it works so well. You've put yourself out there. You have a video on YouTube, and doing my research before this interview, I watch all your YouTube videos, which are excellent. When you have a video on YouTube that talks about should you pay rent during this time. I won't give the punch line of how you go into it. But it's a very similar philosophy that we're talking about here. So those listening, go over to the YouTube channel and make sure you subscribe because there's some great content that'll benefit you. You can see how Shahab has been marketing himself. But as well as look up the one of should you pay rent? Because that falls right in line with what we're talking about here.

Dr. Shahab Inari 16:11

Yeah, absolutely. So I do believe that we are all one, we are all in this together. It doesn't matter whether you're the coach; you're the clients or some other kind of entrepreneur. We are all struggling at some level. And we're all trying to figure out our problems at some level. Some of us are ahead of a few steps, some of which are a few steps behind. But you know, if we care, the core message of that video that you're referencing, and thank you for referencing it here on the show. The core message is to care for other people, lead with value, provide value, and it will come back to you in droves. That's the simple message that we've heard repeatedly, but we sometimes forget to implement it.

Doug Holt 17:03

Yeah, well, it's a great message. And obviously, it stuck with me. So I appreciate you even putting it out there. I'm going to give your wife credit because she was in that conversation, at least she shared it there.

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So Shahab, talk a little bit about; obviously, you're on YouTube, you've been on there, from what I can tell for about three years. What marketing avenues are you currently using? I want you to get into if we can get into some of the offerings you have because it's unique from other coaches and offerings available. So, what channels are you using? I'll add another question to stack on that. How are you tracking the metrics to see what is successful?

Dr. Shahab Inari 18:39

Yeah, sure. So one of the things that I do consistently to generate leads and create awareness is social media. Social media is the equivalent of downtown; the coolest people hang out there, right. So if you want your message to be heard and seen, you have to be active on social media. So I regularly and consistently create content for my social media channels. I'm active on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube if we call it a social media channel. But I'm active on those platforms. A lot of my audience is on Instagram and also on LinkedIn. I focus on Instagram and LinkedIn more than the other channels. I put content out there every single weekday. I create the content in batches one day a week. But I distribute the content every weekday. And one of the things that I do is social media, and I generate the leads again. The second thing that I repeatedly do as a marketing strategy is events or speaking in general. I both produce my events, and I speak at other people's events. I believe that as coaches and consultants, speaking is one of the best lead generation and brand building strategies out there, and that's number two. Number three, the traditional advice, networking, and building relationships, asking for referrals, that type of stuff, face to face, or virtual kind of conversations with potential business partners, clients, prospects, and so on. Back to the offerings that you were asking about, there's a sequence of offers that I offer, and there's a sequence of values that I offer, as Russell Brunson puts it, "Value Ladder" there's a ladder of values that I provide to my clients. They get the value from the social media content, or from the events I produce or the events I speak at. Then I invite them to engage in a conversation with me; normally, it's them talking to a person on my team, not me directly as the first stage. So they book a call with somebody on my team so that somebody on my team can qualify them. They can make sure that we're a good fit, they're a good fit for me, and I'm a good fit for them. If that person on my team believes that this is a good fit for me, and I'm a good fit for that prospect, the second stage is that we will get on a discovery call. I will offer three different packages for my clients, just like you said since I'm in the personal branding space. I'm not like a generic coach that offers just coaching packages. It's precious coaching changes lives. But I'm very much focused on personal branding, and my coaching and consulting help entrepreneurs, build their brands and get more clients.

Doug Holt 22:03

I love it. I love it. So I have a couple of questions for you. Because I'm very familiar with the funnel for me, I'm very familiar with it. But I know some of the listeners are hearing this, there's they sound like, Okay, he's got an enormous team. All of these things are happening, jobs, offices right behind them, 30 workers are coming through. So are you using an outsourced call center? Or is this a VA that's coming in, that's helping you out with these pre-qualification calls.

Dr. Shahab Inari 22:29

Honestly, just like you said, I don't want to overwhelm your audience, especially those at the beginning stages. When I first started, it was just me, me, myself, and not nobody else. But right now, I don't have a huge team. It's only three of us full time in the office. And I do have like five other people on contract. But it's me, the other person, my partner in the company, and the VA, and we are the three full-time people. The VA takes care of social media, emails, and some other stuff. And the other person on my team we have the division of responsibility among us. She does the first screening call to qualify the prospects. But again, in the beginning, when I first started, it was just me. I did everything, and I produced the content, I put it out there, I answered emails, I went into a direct message of Instagram and replied to people, I did the screening calls, so on and so forth. But the most important thing is to create those systems, and if you want to scale, if your intention as a coach is to scale, you need a team. Eventually, you need a team; maybe it's not now, but down the road, you will have to have a team of people who can help you grow your business. To create systems.

Doug Holt 24:03

And create them now, right before you need them created, which is such an interesting thing. Before you need the VA, you need to tell the VA what to do.

Dr. Shahab Inari 24:11


Doug Holt 24:11

They need to know how to help you best.

Dr. Shahab Inari 24:14

That's where documenting, and documentation and you know the SOP standard operating procedures I learned that many years ago from

Michael E. Gerber's book The E-Myth, how vital it is to have SOPs and because so many people are hearing from experts that okay, coaches, consultants, subject matter experts need VAs. Okay. Let's say I'm going to go out there and hire a VA tomorrow. What will that VA do for me if they don't have the documentation if they don't know exactly what to do? You can't just dump your responsibilities on some VA because you want to focus on your area of genius. That won't work. You have to have the documents, the procedures in place, and just like you said, start now.

Doug Holt 24:58

You know, I hired my first VA back in 2005, a full-time VA, which was a weird thing back then. And I did not have, and this is a lesson for everybody listening, I did not have all my SOPs in place. I was scrambling to find things for my VA to do. And it's not that at this point it was gentlemen, it was not that he wasn't willing to work, I just didn't know how to do it properly. So I encourage everybody to listen to this to start documenting what you're working on now. Even if you're just thinking about launching your business or if it's already successful because people can only help you, as far as they know what to do. Something else, Shahab, you're reinvesting in yourself. You said it many, many times, which is also something very interesting, obviously getting coaching and mentoring yourself, but also reinvesting in your business, right? Hiring the right team and making sure that you're always out there. So you can focus on what you do best.

Dr. Shahab Inari 25:53

Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, as coaches, we don't want to edit videos. We don't want to reply to 100 emails a day. That's not our core genius; our core genius and passion are helping people, Teaching people, and training people, helping people tap into their untapped potential. That's our genius. That's our superpower. But at some point, you have to do everything yourself. So yes, I have always wanted to focus on my area of genius. I can't say I'm not; I wouldn't know I'm there yet. Because I'm still building a team, and I am still hiring people. I don't have all of my SOPs together, but I'm working on it. The definitive version of my business is when I can focus on just my core genius. And I have these people in place and these resources in place, and everything in place that takes care of running the business moving, is my ideal version, and I'm running towards that.

Doug Holt 27:05

I love it. I love it not walking, but running. Absolutely. You do that I find unique because you provide co-authoring with big names in the industry for coaches and others. Talk a little bit about that and how that works.

Dr. Shahab Inari 27:21

Since my company North Star Success as a personal branding agency, we are focused on different strategies, sometimes unique strategies that can help our clients, coaches, and consultants build their brand. Two of the best ways that I know of that can help a subject matter expert, a coach, or a consultant make their brand write a book with a prominent name speaker and share the stage with a big name speaker. These are branding strategies; let me clarify that these are not the lead generation strategies. Don't get me wrong; this is not about writing a book is not about, okay, you write the book and generate leads the day after, or you share the stage with a prominent name speaker, and you get tons of leads. Those are byproducts; they will happen eventually. But these are great credibility builders and visibility builders and assets of branding. So yes, we offer unique opportunities to coaches and consultants to share the stage with prominent name speakers at the events that we regularly produce throughout the year. And also co-author books with renowned name speakers. You know, Doug, you are a pro, you've been in this game for a very long time. It's all about branding by association, right? You associate yourself to a big name authority, and their credibility, authority, and status brush off on you.

Doug Holt 28:57

Yeah, well, it does have the right perceived authority. It's just that same reason people write articles. I remember I was in this industry or coaching in the industry. And I was featured in a big-name magazine, and then all of a sudden people, my friends and family started listening. It was nothing new that I've been telling them but being featured in an article, but in this case, a book or on stage is a phenomenal way to jumpstart that. Now for somebody that's just getting, let's say, just getting into the industry, we talked about speaking on stage with a big name and Robert Kiyosaki or whoever it might be Brian Tracy, and that might just scare them, like what do I talk about? What do I do? What would you say to them?

Dr. Shahab Inari 29:40

Absolutely. So they can start small, and they can increase their experience. They can get better at speaking, hone their message, and then go after these opportunities. For example, at my company, we produce both smaller events and prominent summits. We have events where we don't have celebrities, and we have famous summits with celebrity keynote speakers. So there are these opportunities out there. The point is, speaking is incredible; it is a great strategy to build your brand, you can either produce your event yourself, or you can use an existing platform out there where you can get in front of a big audience and build your brand. So it's not about necessarily sharing the stage with prominent name speakers; if you're ready for it, go for it. But it's about speaking as a strategy, speaking and getting in front of a crowd of people to establish yourself as a subject matter expert. So I just want to comment here. And it's not an either-or you don't necessarily have to either produce your event or speak at other people's events; you can do both. I've done both; I've produced my events, and I've sponsored other events to be able to speak at those events, or sometimes I've spoken for free, or sometimes they have paid me. But again, it's either producing your events or speaking other people's events.

Doug Holt 31:19

Which I think is an important thing to note right now. I've been doing this for a very long time and have an opportunity to meet some great people and you being one of them, Shahab, because you're here right now, taking your time to help others by providing value. When we did the pre-call, for those watching the podcast or excuse me, listen to me listening to the podcast, we do a pre-call setup where you and I get a chance to get to know each other to make sure it's a good fit. And something that came across for you right away if you wanted to lead with value. That was the most important thing for you. For those listening to this, I think that's an important aspect that doesn't get talked about very much on the business side of coaching or the business side in general. You came on; obviously, this is a great promotion, and coaches, you guys should take note. Shahab is a great brander, and he's doing what he says to do. But you also go in, and you lead with value. I noticed this not only in our conversation with your Forbes articles with YouTube and your website. It's consistent value-driven rather than just a sales approach. We talked about asking for the sale, and I'm sure you do, but you leave with so much value, and I think that's understated in our industry.

Dr. Shahab Inari 32:37

Absolutely. Thank you so much for that. I appreciate your generosity with your words. The thing is, I have a mantra, I do believe in “Givers gain”. Dr. Ivan Misner, the creator of BNI, always talks about that givers gain it's all about giving first and expecting to receive afterward. And I believe in that, and since I'm a long term player, I'm in this game for the long term, I am not somebody who is a coach today and a real estate agent tomorrow, I'm not that kind of a person. I have been a coach slash author for the past 20 years, and I will be until the last day of my life. If I give value now, those people who are aligned with my values, or who liked me, will get attracted to me and follow me and not necessarily earn revenue from them directly. But maybe they refer me to somebody else. Perhaps they just spread good vibes about me. So it will come back to me at some point in the future. And since it's a long game, it's always a win; when you give value, you always win.

Doug Holt 33:57

We share the same philosophy there. I find it to be true and true, time, and time again. Anything in life, not just business but in general it shines through. We mentioned this earlier about being authentic and authenticity. It's often joked around that coaching, but or as a CEO, which I am now is authenticity is the New Black. Right? Is everybody out there being authentic? Do you find that by being authentic, you're attracting your ideal people who are going to like you anyway? Did you find when you first started coaching that you were trying to fit yourself into a box to attract the client, and how has that evolved for you?

Dr. Shahab Inari 34:39

Absolutely. Yeah, there have been slips, I may say, and it's a constant challenge in the right way because, as somebody who does personal branding myself, I believe that branding is all about authenticity. If you project a fake image to your audience, eventually, the moon will come out, people will realize that you're fake. Branding is all about making a promise that you can deliver on. That's what a personal brand stands for; a personal brand new is a unique promise of value that you make to your audience. So it's all about making a promise and delivering on it. What does that mean? That means being authentic because if you are not authentic, you're not making a promise that you will provide on. So I believe that. Authenticity is the way to go. If you want to build a brand. I've made mistakes, obviously, in the past. And it's a constant challenge. Because sometimes you doubt yourself, sometimes you doubt the way you're doing things. Sometimes you think maybe you should copy what other people's other people are doing, or the gurus are doing this, especially in our field. But time and time again, it has been proven that if you do your own thing and show people who you are, the right people will get attracted to you.

Doug Holt 36:15

I love it. You've been so generous with your time, and I want to end on that note because it is so poignant, And you are the embodiment of that, for those listening. Those that have followed me before, I get the opportunity to meet thousands of people every year, and Dr. Shahab is the real deal. You can tell right away. So I thank you for being you and for being here today. So Shahab, people want to find out more about you, your services, maybe it's even co-authoring a book with a celebrity, wherever they go?

Dr. Shahab Inari 36:46

Thank you so much for that. So my website is, again, we are a personal branding agency in Toronto, Canada, but we have clients and customers worldwide. And I am on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn @shahabanari.

Doug Holt 37:08

I have to say for all my Iranian friends who are out there Persians, and you do have some great stuff on Instagram in Farsi, which is exceptionally unique. And I think it's fantastic. I love it. So thank you again for being with us today. And I love to have you back on for a follow-up.

Dr. Shahab Inari 37:26

Thank you so much for having me on the show. It was an absolute pleasure.

Doug Holt 37:29


Thank you for joining us at the Successful Coach Podcast. Please hit like and subscribe so we can bring you more great interviews like these. Until next time, have a fantastic day.

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