in The Inconvenience of Change

The Convenience of Mediocrity [Rikin Diwan]

As individuals, we all are inherently wanting in nature.

We want to accomplish, to impact, to make proud, and to be remembered. We are rarely satisfied and in constant search of opportunities that will bring us closer to completing our personal ‘missions’. It is not always easy and we must often change ourselves before we go on to change the world – but change is inconvenient. We find that not only does society make it difficult but that inertia comes between our ability to take action and to achieve our end goals.

If there is a universal truth that could parallel the inconvenience of change it is undoubtedly the convenience of mediocrity. At this very moment I have a cup of tea nearby, a computer in my lap, music playing in the background, and four walls that hold up a sturdy roof to keep the cool air inside. I have a full-time job and granted that I don’t get fired or that the company does not go bankrupt, I’ll receive a check on Thursday precisely at midnight that will then be deposited into a bank that I’ve never even visited. Behind the scenes, there are moving parts working together to make this possible – but I’ll never be aware of or understand all of them. Regardless, at this rate I’m almost guaranteed to sail through life, start a family, advance my career, have a two car garage, and retire relatively comfortably.

My lifestyle is undeniably convenient and you could almost see me continuing along this slightly upward sloping path to live a fairly average life. Don’t get me wrong, mediocrity is not a bad thing and in fact quite admirable. What is even more encouraging is that there are only two things needed to achieve mediocrity: maintenance and imitation. Most of us could maintain our current lifestyle and fair well in the long run. Through maintenance, we’ll continue to rise along the slope of mediocrity. If we ever find ourselves falling behind, we can imitate the successes of others until we’re caught up again to a par 3 lifestyle. But for some of us, we’re still left wanting.

Rising Above the SlopeThe Convenience of Mediocrity

To satisfy this inexplicable urge to accomplish some greater good we must create real change. That of course leaves us wondering, how?

To be honest, I don’t think there is a universal method that applies to everyone. Some create change during a 9-5 job working for ‘the man’ while others become entrepreneurs. Social movements can be started as easily from your bed as they could on the steps of city hall with the use of current technology. Apologies for the cliche but in the end there are many paths that lead to the same destination. However, if you look carefully you’ll find that these paths share commonalities and that the troubles faced along the way are often similar.

Pitfalls: The Difference Between ‘Different’ & ‘Change’

Although I was born in England, I spent most of my years growing up in a New Jersey suburb and attended the state university nearby. Throughout this time I had felt that New Jersey was holding me back and always yearned to break free. The summer before senior year of college I applied for an internship in California, packed my bags, and took a hiatus in the valley.

Before leaving, I had dreamt that this would be my enlightenment period – that a modern day Haight Ashbury Festival would take place and I’d be surrounded by interesting people doing exciting things as soon as I landed. None of this was true and I initially felt no different while in California. I realized that it wasn’t up to California to change me and that I would have to find the catalyst somewhere inside of myself instead. Arduously, I forced each thought to be positive and accepting of new people and new things without judgement. I biked a 30 mile distance in San Francisco with a friend in just one day, met a juggling unicyclist who broadened my definition of talent, had my order taken before a female because the male bartender was homosexual, found love in the form of Cabernet and Merlot in Napa Valley, and began to feel enlightened by life. I was finally becoming the person I had envisioned while back in New Jersey. Not because of California but because of myself.

One of the most common mistakes when trying to create change is to simply replace one thing for another. I replaced New Jersey with California but ultimately the change I needed wasn’t in a zip-code but a behavior of my own. You can’t create change by moving, finding a new girlfriend, widening your circle of friends, or getting a new job. Places, people, and careers can all be different but that doesn’t mean replacing them will result in the change you’re looking for – different does not equal change.

Disruptive Innovation

As anything progresses it inevitably becomes more and more complex thereby providing the opportunity for a newer and simpler solution to emerge. This solution is known as a disruptive innovation because it completely alters the course of advancement and replaces the old method or technology. The theory of disruptive innovation can also be applied to our individual behavior and seen as the root of personal change.

Regardless of which path you take to create change you are essentially looking for disruptive innovations. For years and years I had solidified my conceptions of the world and who I was thereby making it impossible to change. In California, I finally saw that these conceptions were holding me back and forced myself to break them to start anew – I succeeded. Individuals, organizations, and societies all need to look for the patterns and habits that restrict growth and then disrupt them to result in change.

Nirvana – When Enough is Enough

I wanted to end my contribution to this series with a note on achieving ultimate satisfaction. Our quest for change is undoubtedly noble and in many ways necessary but it is also one that can easily become an ugly and bitter obsession. The world has seen more change in the past century or so than in any other that the fact that society simply hasn’t taken a break is shocking. In truth, this is a testament to the collective human spirit and exemplifies society’s obsession with advancement and change. However, we as individuals spend a lifetime growing, learning, and working that we shouldn’t forget to set aside time to look back without regret and look ahead with content before having to say, “Well, that was fun.”

Rikin DiwanAUTHOR BIO: Rikin Diwan is currently working (and living) in Manhattan, working for the press and, on the side, making things happen on his own blog ‘Rikin on the Web‘. Rikin (pronounced Rick-in) was one of the first bloggers I connected with when I launched Life Without Pants earlier this year and since then, we’ve become good friends (although I’ve yet to make a trip to NYC to talk social media and marketing over a few beers). I encourage everyone to check out his blog and connect with him on Twitter.

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34 Comments

  1. Indeed “different does not equal change” mainly because one is the outcome of the other. If we’re talking semantics: ‘different’ is an adjective and ‘change’ is a verb. But don’t get me wrong here, I understand what you are trying to say. I’ve seen people fall into a sick cycle as they try to replace one after another looking for some enlightenment. The key thing, I think, is that we need to change something to see the difference of what our life used to be to what it is now. For some, it requires a new job or a new zip code but it does not guarantee that one would be able to realize it. I guess in a way, it’s all still trial-and-error and we have to keep changing the variables to know what works for us and what doesn’t.

    Great post, this one. :)

    • This may sound really hippie-ish of me but we’re only guaranteed one life and it’s too short to not use trial-and-error as a mantra throughout.

  2. Indeed “different does not equal change” mainly because one is the outcome of the other. If we’re talking semantics: ‘different’ is an adjective and ‘change’ is a verb. But don’t get me wrong here, I understand what you are trying to say. I’ve seen people fall into a sick cycle as they try to replace one after another looking for some enlightenment. The key thing, I think, is that we need to change something to see the difference of what our life used to be to what it is now. For some, it requires a new job or a new zip code but it does not guarantee that one would be able to realize it. I guess in a way, it’s all still trial-and-error and we have to keep changing the variables to know what works for us and what doesn’t.

    Great post, this one. :)

    • This may sound really hippie-ish of me but we’re only guaranteed one life and it’s too short to not use trial-and-error as a mantra throughout.

  3. Rikin, this is so well-written and incredibly insightful. The point that speaks to me the most is when you say, “One of the most common mistakes when trying to create change is to simply replace one thing for another.” You are certainly not the only one who has tried to achieve change this way. I know I’m guilty of it, as I’m sure most people are.

    The thing is, it’s so much easier to blame our inability to change on something else, such as our job, our living situation, the economy etc. But, although it’s more difficult to change within, that’s often the only way we can truly accomplish our goals. When someone is put in the worst situation possible and still finds the inner strength to change, that is what I find most impressive. Awesome post!

    On a side note, somehow I had no idea you lived/worked in Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan…very interesting. Also, in response to Matt’s comment in your bio about not having been to NYC, please help me nudge him to make that trip :)

    • Sam, thanks for the kind words!

      We should definitely get Matt to make the trip out to the city. (I actually don’t live in manhattan but right outside in NJ – would love to move/work out in BK) Either, we should have a meetup and grab a few drinks sometime.

      • Yeah, I’ll make it out there soon enough – A first trip to NYC is long overdue. I’ll make it happen (hopefully) sooner than later. Rikin – hope you are doing well and I hope you’ll swing back through here and keep the conversation going with some of your adoring fans.

        Looking forward to what you have in store over on your blog in the future. Keep on keeping on bro!

  4. Rikin, this is so well-written and incredibly insightful. The point that speaks to me the most is when you say, “One of the most common mistakes when trying to create change is to simply replace one thing for another.” You are certainly not the only one who has tried to achieve change this way. I know I’m guilty of it, as I’m sure most people are.

    The thing is, it’s so much easier to blame our inability to change on something else, such as our job, our living situation, the economy etc. But, although it’s more difficult to change within, that’s often the only way we can truly accomplish our goals. When someone is put in the worst situation possible and still finds the inner strength to change, that is what I find most impressive. Awesome post!

    On a side note, somehow I had no idea you lived/worked in Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan…very interesting. Also, in response to Matt’s comment in your bio about not having been to NYC, please help me nudge him to make that trip :)

    • Sam, thanks for the kind words!

      We should definitely get Matt to make the trip out to the city. (I actually don’t live in manhattan but right outside in NJ – would love to move/work out in BK) Either, we should have a meetup and grab a few drinks sometime.

      • Yeah, I’ll make it out there soon enough – A first trip to NYC is long overdue. I’ll make it happen (hopefully) sooner than later. Rikin – hope you are doing well and I hope you’ll swing back through here and keep the conversation going with some of your adoring fans.

        Looking forward to what you have in store over on your blog in the future. Keep on keeping on bro!

  5. Rikin – This post is especially inspiring. My girlfriend and I were having dinner over the weekend and we were talking about how so many of our friends seem content with being mediocre – that there is a lack of drive and motivation to do more and be more. Is it always a bad thing? No. But is it limiting your full potential? Are these people selling themselves short? I think so.

    Rising above the rest, thinking outside the box, and being excellent means different things to different people. There is no clear definition for for achieving ultimate satisfaction – each of us crafts our own idea of ultimate satisfaction and ‘nirvana’. I think that journey toward perfection is a life long process. Going above and beyond, rising above mediocrity to me means spending my life learning and growing – it means never becoming overly content with where I am. We all want to be comfortable – we want that two car garage, a family, a good job – but it goes beyond that for me, and I think the same can be said for most of the people who have been a part of this series. You all would have never gotten involved if you were passionate and driven to do more, reach out, and impact others’ lives.

    Throughout life, being able to take a step back and enjoy the ride is so important – we get so caught up in the day to day that we often fail to appreciate how amazing life is – don’t think about sitting on your porch at 80 and looking back at your life, go sit on the porch today and savor the everyday moments – celebrate personal successes, rise above mediocrity every single day.

    Thank you for being a part of this Rikin – very well done sir.

    • Cheers to you sir for this opportunity – 7 positive comments like the ones here so far can really ‘change’ my outlook on blogging and having something to say. You’ve made me step back and think about the big picture for a second and for that I’m really appreciative.

      This whole series has been really insightful. Great work building this community up.

      • Thanks Rikin, I always appreciate the accolades from other writers and bloggers that I respect (that would be you). I am the one who is truly honored to have had you and so many other incredible minds come together for this cause. I have to admit, I thought people would get tired of it, I thought we would be beating a dead horse with all this talk about change. But somehow, every single post has shined a new and innovative spotlight on the topic. There really is/has been something for everyone, something that maybe you connect with better than I do – and that’s what it’s about, providing varying perspectives with the common goal of bringing people together and inspiring people to be better individuals. Thanks again man.

  6. Rikin – This post is especially inspiring. My girlfriend and I were having dinner over the weekend and we were talking about how so many of our friends seem content with being mediocre – that there is a lack of drive and motivation to do more and be more. Is it always a bad thing? No. But is it limiting your full potential? Are these people selling themselves short? I think so.

    Rising above the rest, thinking outside the box, and being excellent means different things to different people. There is no clear definition for for achieving ultimate satisfaction – each of us crafts our own idea of ultimate satisfaction and ‘nirvana’. I think that journey toward perfection is a life long process. Going above and beyond, rising above mediocrity to me means spending my life learning and growing – it means never becoming overly content with where I am. We all want to be comfortable – we want that two car garage, a family, a good job – but it goes beyond that for me, and I think the same can be said for most of the people who have been a part of this series. You all would have never gotten involved if you were passionate and driven to do more, reach out, and impact others’ lives.

    Throughout life, being able to take a step back and enjoy the ride is so important – we get so caught up in the day to day that we often fail to appreciate how amazing life is – don’t think about sitting on your porch at 80 and looking back at your life, go sit on the porch today and savor the everyday moments – celebrate personal successes, rise above mediocrity every single day.

    Thank you for being a part of this Rikin – very well done sir.

    • Cheers to you sir for this opportunity – 7 positive comments like the ones here so far can really ‘change’ my outlook on blogging and having something to say. You’ve made me step back and think about the big picture for a second and for that I’m really appreciative.

      This whole series has been really insightful. Great work building this community up.

      • Thanks Rikin, I always appreciate the accolades from other writers and bloggers that I respect (that would be you). I am the one who is truly honored to have had you and so many other incredible minds come together for this cause. I have to admit, I thought people would get tired of it, I thought we would be beating a dead horse with all this talk about change. But somehow, every single post has shined a new and innovative spotlight on the topic. There really is/has been something for everyone, something that maybe you connect with better than I do – and that’s what it’s about, providing varying perspectives with the common goal of bringing people together and inspiring people to be better individuals. Thanks again man.

  7. I am unable to write a lengthy post at the moment to comment on this, but all I can say is that his has been one of *the* most powerful entries I have read in this series. Inspirational and so insightful. Different does not equal change– Rikin, you are absolutely correct. Great post!

  8. I am unable to write a lengthy post at the moment to comment on this, but all I can say is that his has been one of *the* most powerful entries I have read in this series. Inspirational and so insightful. Different does not equal change– Rikin, you are absolutely correct. Great post!

  9. I agree with the general consensus and say that this has been one of the more impactful posts for me in this series. I almost always suffer from the “if only” delusion in many regards and I remember the shock I got when I realized that who I was fundamentally bore almost no correlation to my environment. Almost because while I have thrived in my new environment, it was as you said, a focused plan of change rather than an instantaneous or spontaneous relevation. That’s pretty inconvenient I’d say.

    Thank you for putting the issue in such eloquent terms. I like that you implied if not outright said that part of the notion of change can also be negative. Setbacks and regrets can shape someone as surely as a series of positive changes and I would argue, probably for the better since it frames the positive as truly positive and rather a superficial assumption of what “ought to be” is.

    To put it another way, looking back at things with regret is a good growth measurement since it tells you what not do and that’s what the sum core of experience is, essentially. The key, I think, is to draw on the experiences and lessons learn to apply towards the future and not let it dominate, which is of course, easier said than done.

    Great post. :)

  10. I agree with the general consensus and say that this has been one of the more impactful posts for me in this series. I almost always suffer from the “if only” delusion in many regards and I remember the shock I got when I realized that who I was fundamentally bore almost no correlation to my environment. Almost because while I have thrived in my new environment, it was as you said, a focused plan of change rather than an instantaneous or spontaneous relevation. That’s pretty inconvenient I’d say.

    Thank you for putting the issue in such eloquent terms. I like that you implied if not outright said that part of the notion of change can also be negative. Setbacks and regrets can shape someone as surely as a series of positive changes and I would argue, probably for the better since it frames the positive as truly positive and rather a superficial assumption of what “ought to be” is.

    To put it another way, looking back at things with regret is a good growth measurement since it tells you what not do and that’s what the sum core of experience is, essentially. The key, I think, is to draw on the experiences and lessons learn to apply towards the future and not let it dominate, which is of course, easier said than done.

    Great post. :)

  11. I thoroughly contemplated a similar topic when I was writing my change blog. Kind of a “is change merely for the sake of change productive or counter-productive” type question.

    I have never lived outside of the state of Maine, I even went to college here. I have opportunities frequently to relocate to many different regional offices with my company, over 25 throughout the US actually. For a bit of time, I seriously contemplated one of those changes. My life here was stagnant, I had no social life outside of family, my career was at a point that it wasn’t advancing, life was just really unenjoyable. I really considered just picking up and running away anywhere. A place to start again, to discover myself, to change my life.

    As I looked at places to go that would rock my world, give me new experiences, and make me the person I needed to be. My friends all told me I HAD to move away, that no one grows or learns or changes here. It’s like the land where people go to die or worse buy clothes at Levinsky’s and *gasp* have kids and settle down. I admire EVERY ONE of my friends who had the gumption to move away and find themselves. For me, it would have been the exact opposite of positive change, it would have been running away from my problems, it would have been trying to change myself without actually changing me. It would have been a surface change for the sake of change without actually making any penetrating change.

    I’m glad that you experienced such wonderful things in California, and found pieces of yourself there. I’m especially glad that you blogged to remind people that it isn’t necessarily where you are or what you are doing, you have to change yourself. And really, that is the change that’s inconvenient.

  12. I thoroughly contemplated a similar topic when I was writing my change blog. Kind of a “is change merely for the sake of change productive or counter-productive” type question.

    I have never lived outside of the state of Maine, I even went to college here. I have opportunities frequently to relocate to many different regional offices with my company, over 25 throughout the US actually. For a bit of time, I seriously contemplated one of those changes. My life here was stagnant, I had no social life outside of family, my career was at a point that it wasn’t advancing, life was just really unenjoyable. I really considered just picking up and running away anywhere. A place to start again, to discover myself, to change my life.

    As I looked at places to go that would rock my world, give me new experiences, and make me the person I needed to be. My friends all told me I HAD to move away, that no one grows or learns or changes here. It’s like the land where people go to die or worse buy clothes at Levinsky’s and *gasp* have kids and settle down. I admire EVERY ONE of my friends who had the gumption to move away and find themselves. For me, it would have been the exact opposite of positive change, it would have been running away from my problems, it would have been trying to change myself without actually changing me. It would have been a surface change for the sake of change without actually making any penetrating change.

    I’m glad that you experienced such wonderful things in California, and found pieces of yourself there. I’m especially glad that you blogged to remind people that it isn’t necessarily where you are or what you are doing, you have to change yourself. And really, that is the change that’s inconvenient.

  13. This is a great post, and I loved the honest story. You know, I think we often get caught up in just living and maintaining our lives as is. And we expect going abroad or trying something new to suddenly change us. But I think you’re right – we have to change ourselves rather than expect just a new situation or a new job to change us completely. That’s unrealistic and I think you highlighted the key point – we have to change ourselves and just GO for it, otherwise it’s not going to happen.

    However, I have to caution against striving to constantly succeed and be great. The truth is, if we are constantly trying to be better, succeed, and have higher expectations of ourselves – how are we going to be happy? At some point you have to change for the better, but always remember to be happy as you are.

    • Agreed completely, I hope the end part of my post made your word of warning explicit enough. Sometimes you really should just be able to sit back and be completely fine with who you are and what you have accomplished. It’s those moments that will mean the most when all of this is over.

    • In the end, it does come down to you and me, change has to start from within, but Rikin’s story illustrates an interesting point in that a change in scenery can ‘ignite’ inner change. Sometimes simply leaving what we’re used to and (literally) leaving our comfort zone can spark all sorts of other profound change within us. Waking up in the morning, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, going to bed, waking up and doing it all over again – we sometimes inadverdentley become overly content because it’s just what we’re used to, it’s what ‘works’ so to speak. Packing your bags and changing your lifestyle routine can enable you to rediscover who you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there.

      I agree with you both though, in that life shouldn’t be about constant change, we should continually challenge ourselves, question things, learn and grow from our experiences, but we also have to be able to take a step back and appreciate it all.

  14. This is a great post, and I loved the honest story. You know, I think we often get caught up in just living and maintaining our lives as is. And we expect going abroad or trying something new to suddenly change us. But I think you’re right – we have to change ourselves rather than expect just a new situation or a new job to change us completely. That’s unrealistic and I think you highlighted the key point – we have to change ourselves and just GO for it, otherwise it’s not going to happen.

    However, I have to caution against striving to constantly succeed and be great. The truth is, if we are constantly trying to be better, succeed, and have higher expectations of ourselves – how are we going to be happy? At some point you have to change for the better, but always remember to be happy as you are.

    • Agreed completely, I hope the end part of my post made your word of warning explicit enough. Sometimes you really should just be able to sit back and be completely fine with who you are and what you have accomplished. It’s those moments that will mean the most when all of this is over.

    • In the end, it does come down to you and me, change has to start from within, but Rikin’s story illustrates an interesting point in that a change in scenery can ‘ignite’ inner change. Sometimes simply leaving what we’re used to and (literally) leaving our comfort zone can spark all sorts of other profound change within us. Waking up in the morning, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, going to bed, waking up and doing it all over again – we sometimes inadverdentley become overly content because it’s just what we’re used to, it’s what ‘works’ so to speak. Packing your bags and changing your lifestyle routine can enable you to rediscover who you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there.

      I agree with you both though, in that life shouldn’t be about constant change, we should continually challenge ourselves, question things, learn and grow from our experiences, but we also have to be able to take a step back and appreciate it all.

  15. Best post about change I’ve read so far. Period.

    I’m 22 years old, and maybe because of luck, skills or networking, I’ve reached a point in my ilfe (way too early I believe) where I can set it on autopilot and live my whole life without being upset. I find this horrible. And maybe that’s why I feel so related to your wirting (which is brilliant, may i say).

    You’ve hit all the right buttons Rikin, kudos for this post. It’s amazing.

  16. Best post about change I’ve read so far. Period.

    I’m 22 years old, and maybe because of luck, skills or networking, I’ve reached a point in my ilfe (way too early I believe) where I can set it on autopilot and live my whole life without being upset. I find this horrible. And maybe that’s why I feel so related to your wirting (which is brilliant, may i say).

    You’ve hit all the right buttons Rikin, kudos for this post. It’s amazing.

  17. Rikin I found myself nodding my head right when you said, “the change I needed wasn’t in a zip-code but a behavior of my own.”

    I picked up and moved and always want to spread my wings, try new things. However, I was always conscious to not be running away. I’m originally from a small town in Iowa and although I love my family and friends, the rural small-town doesn’t vibe with my life and beliefs. I wanted to remember where I was from but also that the change I was craving wasn’t because of location (aesthetics fade eventually) but for something inside of me.

    This is when I found the deepest change, was when I noticed something internally with myself, not because of the wild locations I have moved to or spent time in. Great thoughts!

  18. Rikin I found myself nodding my head right when you said, “the change I needed wasn’t in a zip-code but a behavior of my own.”

    I picked up and moved and always want to spread my wings, try new things. However, I was always conscious to not be running away. I’m originally from a small town in Iowa and although I love my family and friends, the rural small-town doesn’t vibe with my life and beliefs. I wanted to remember where I was from but also that the change I was craving wasn’t because of location (aesthetics fade eventually) but for something inside of me.

    This is when I found the deepest change, was when I noticed something internally with myself, not because of the wild locations I have moved to or spent time in. Great thoughts!

  19. Really moving post Rikin, so beautifully written.

    I really love this line: “If there is a universal truth that could parallel the inconvenience of change it is undoubtedly the convenience of mediocrity”. That really rings true, the “convenience” of mediocrity, of “average”.

    Then again, when you think about it, all our lives we’ve been compared to the “average”. In school our grades are judged against the class “average”. At work our performance is rated against the “average” and 60% of us would fall into that symmetrical bell curve. So, in a way people are only working towards what is expected of them, which is “average”. No surprise then when only 3% or so decide and choose to break the mould and be way above average.

    Again, is mediocre or average bad? Not necessarily, but I agree with Matt, I fully believe these people are selling themselves short on loads of experiences if anything, when they look back what will they look back on? What will stand out? Where did they push the boundaries and challenge themselves, their environment, the status quo? Did they ever give themselves the chance to become the person they were meant to be, did they ever explore those hidden avenues?

    Hats off to a wonderful post! Thoroughly enjoyed it :)

  20. Really moving post Rikin, so beautifully written.

    I really love this line: “If there is a universal truth that could parallel the inconvenience of change it is undoubtedly the convenience of mediocrity”. That really rings true, the “convenience” of mediocrity, of “average”.

    Then again, when you think about it, all our lives we’ve been compared to the “average”. In school our grades are judged against the class “average”. At work our performance is rated against the “average” and 60% of us would fall into that symmetrical bell curve. So, in a way people are only working towards what is expected of them, which is “average”. No surprise then when only 3% or so decide and choose to break the mould and be way above average.

    Again, is mediocre or average bad? Not necessarily, but I agree with Matt, I fully believe these people are selling themselves short on loads of experiences if anything, when they look back what will they look back on? What will stand out? Where did they push the boundaries and challenge themselves, their environment, the status quo? Did they ever give themselves the chance to become the person they were meant to be, did they ever explore those hidden avenues?

    Hats off to a wonderful post! Thoroughly enjoyed it :)