The ‘Lazy’ Approach That Keeps Me Motivated to Hit the Gym

“All or Nothing”, “Go Hard or Go Home”, “Don’t Stop When You’re Tired, Stop When You’re Done”. These are the kinds of quotes that I often see pop up on my Instagram feed in gritty typography against a backdrop of an oiled-up muscular bodybuilder, flexing intensely in a dark room dimly lit by downlights.

These quotes sound nice. If I’m already at the gym, reading something like this might get me to increase the incline on the treadmill, load up some extra weights on my bar or keep going past my set number of reps until failure. After all, nothing worth having comes easy, and feeling sore today means being strong tomorrow, right? (Why are there so many of these fitness adages stored in my brain??).

The ‘all or nothing’ approach isn’t just found in fitness discourse, I also see quotes like “hustle and grind 24/7, 365” and “give 110% all the time” thrown around in other contexts like business, career progression and even in relationships.

Again, it all sounds really nice. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone who is self-motivated enough to work 24/7, 365? Who wouldn’t love being in a relationship with someone who puts 110% effort in every single day, not just on Valentine’s Day and anniversaries?

The problem that I have with the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach is that, for me at least, it isn’t sustainable. There might be some people out there who really can show up to the gym every single day, complete their set workout and stick to a certain diet plan perfectly. I am not one of those people.

I’ve had a gym membership for over 5 years now and the longest I’ve ever been able to stick to my ‘ideal’ diet and exercise goals perfectly has been about 2 weeks.

Max.

I used to think that maybe if I set myself really ambitious goals, like hitting the gym 7 times a week for at least an hour, then at least if I missed a few days, I’d still be going quite a lot… right? I think the saying goes “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you’ll land among the stars.”

In practice though, if I missed one day of hitting the gym for whatever reason, my ‘all or nothing’ mindset would kick in and I’d think that there was no point in continuing since I had already failed. “I might as well eat pizza and brownies while watching Netflix shows for now and start again next week…” Or, if I only had 30 mins spare to exercise, rather than a full hour, I thought to myself, “what’s the point? I won’t even work up a sweat or have a chance to get my heart rate up.”

It’s the perfectionist’s fatal flaw- holding oneself to impossibly high standards, inevitably followed by failure, guilt, demotivation (and sometimes a whole tray of Tim-Tams in bed).

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Tim Tam Goals

Something Is Better Than Nothing

What I’ve found helpful in getting myself out of the “all-or-nothing” mindset, without giving up on my goals altogether, is a “something-is-better-than-nothing” mindset. Small, consistent actions towards fitness, career, business or relationship goals are much more effective than short-lived but intense spikes of activity followed by long periods of doing nothing.

By giving myself permission to go off track a little bit and not allowing myself to use it as an excuse to completely disregard my plans, I feel like I’ve been able to achieve more, increase confidence in myself and get more out of the journey as a whole. After all, hitting the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes might not be as good as going every day, but it’s better than skipping out altogether (and feeling super guilty about it!)

Finally, in the spirit of including lots of tacky motivational quotes, I find it helpful to remember:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

Sometimes, I Get SAD.

When I spent a year living in Munich, I discovered something about myself that I hadn’t previously been aware of. I left a cool and cloudy Sydney to arrive towards the end of what had been a sweltering German summer. I couldn’t believe that I was out there sweating through 30-degree days as I settled in, attending class in shorts and singlets and eating gelato by the lake after Uni, while my friends in Australia were still rugging up for tops of 8 degrees. It just seemed so backwards to me that it could be warmer and sunnier in Germany?

In Summer, the sun didn’t set in Munich until 9:30pm. My friends and I would hang out in the evenings on my balcony drinking Radler and eating fresh berries, before putting on our ridiculous dirndls around 10pm to head out for the Oktoberfest (which, for complicated reasons is actually held in late September).

Weekends were spent soaking up the sun in pretty Biergartens with Weissbier and pretzels, or bike-riding through lush green parks and cycleways. All the thick winter jackets and sweaters I had packed were hung up untouched, taking up most of my very limited wardrobe space, while I dressed in as little material as possible in an attempt to stay cool throughout the long, sweltering days.

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Englischer Garten, Munich

But alas, like all good things, Summer had to come to an end. As we approached the end of the year and the Christmas season, temperatures began to drop, Biergartens closed for the Winter, and the sun pretty much stopped making an appearance. Every day was grey and dreary. Even in the middle of the day, it felt dark outside, like the clouds were a heavy blanket pushing down on the whole city and sucking the life out of me. I felt like I had no energy. I stopped wanting to go out. I missed my home and my friends back in Australia. I was too tired to go shopping, cook, clean or eat out. Without any sun, my normally olive skin turned transparent white and I developed dark circles under my eyes. I spent days at a time alone in my tiny house, watching Netflix shows and Ted Talks in between long naps and working on assignments.

I felt like a failure, I was on exchange in another country! I was meant to be having the time of my life, staying out every night and enjoying every minute, but instead I felt like I was trapped in this weird zombie state. I thought maybe that I was just lonely, but when I went to visit my family in England over Christmas, that heavy feeling didn’t go away. In fact, I felt so relieved when I was finally back in my tiny upstairs room back in Munich, where I could be alone to mope around in my own space. Although I found it pretty cool to see snow falling outside my window, and would sometimes take walks through the frozen park near my house, I still spent most of my time inside, alone, shutting myself off from the rest of the world.

I wondered if this feeling would go away. Was I just homesick or was something very, very wrong with me?

As you do, I turned to Dr. Google and discovered something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD for short. Basically, it’s just like normal depression, but symptoms only start to show up during the winter months and then go into “remission’ during the rest of the year.

Although the specific biological causes of SAD are still unknown, it’s believed that for some people, a lack of exposure to light can affect our melanin and serotonin levels, which in turn disrupts our sleep cycle and ability to regulate mood. Apparently, severe cases of SAD which need to be treated with medication or therapy are rare, affecting only about 1 in 300 people.

Fortunately, I wouldn’t put myself in that category. But surely, if some people can be so significantly affected by “winter blues” that is crosses over into full-blown clinical depression, there must be some people who experience the phenomenon on a smaller scale. The weird thing is that I had never noticed the cold weather and grey days having as much of an impact on my mood before I was exposed to weeks and months of it on end.

Since coming back home, I’ve definitely been more aware of how significantly the weather outside affects my state of mind. I think that’s it’s been super helpful for me to be able to “rationalise” the way I feel as a normal biological response rather than blaming my situation, work and Uni stress or family and friends for my sour mood. It’s also been helpful in finding ways to perk myself up and get out of the rut. Rather than isolating myself and wondering what’s wrong with me, I know that I can:

  • Do some exercise
  • Text a friend
  • Go outside and get some light
  • Make a To-Do List and smash out simple tasks
  • Delete social media apps off my phone for a set period
  • Journal
  • Put the sugary snacks down and prepare a healthy meal instead

If all else fails, it’s comforting to know that the sun will come out again, and with it, bring back my normally positive mood. I still find it much more difficult to get out of bed when there’s no sunlight filtering through my blinds in the morning, and my productivity always takes a hit since all I want to do is curl up into a ball and go into hibernation. However, feeling down and lethargic when the sun doesn’t come out is just another thing that I’ve learned to accept about myself. (Also, that I’ll always have to live in a sunny country… Anyone keen to move to Fiji with me?)

I’d love to know if anyone else out there feels the same around winter time! Comment below or send me a private message if you can relate to sometimes feeling a bit SAD.

Disclaimer: As always, whenever I write something, I do it in the hope that someone, somewhere will relate to my experiences and feel just that little bit less alone. I recognise that my mental health journey so far has been smooth sailing compared to so many who struggle with severe depression and anxiety, day in-day out, regardless of whether the sun is shining outside or not. When I share some things that work for me, I am by no means suggesting that everyone’s mental health battles can be ‘solved’ with a bit of diet, exercise and mindfulness. If you, or someone you know needs help, please reach out to:

4 Lessons I Learned As An Intern

Internships, placement, work experience, slave labour. Whatever you call it, there’s no doubt that having real-life, often unpaid, industry experience under your belt before landing a paid position is the modern norm in most fields of work.

I’ve undertaken two internships at two very different companies. I jumped into the first internship with a fairly small company out of sheer curiosity- I felt that my university courses were not only heavy on theory but also that the content was simply outdated. I needed to learn about current practices, not so much about Gutenberg’s Press (although this is a topic which holds a very special place in my heart). After realising I could make internships count for credit, I took up the opportunity to do another internship with a slightly larger organisation which gave me experience in many different departments. 

Putting aside the legal and ethical concerns regarding unpaid internships in Australia, especially for those from regional and low SES contexts (see here and here), my own personal experience with internships is that they have been well worth the time and effort that I have been so lucky to have been able to invest.

The most valuable lessons I’ve learned apply across almost any industry from Media, to Finance to Engineering to Health. Here are my top 4:

  1. No One is Ever Really Done Learning

For those of us who are so over being The Student and can’t wait to finally graduate to being The Master, it may come as a little surprise that even the people who actually get paid to do what they do, don’t always have all the answers. While I was interning, I often felt like I was jumping into someone else’s learning journey. Sure, they’ve been in the game for years and years, but they too are constantly adapting and changing to suit the evolution of the industry.

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Always learning. via giphy.

In fact, it became clear over the course of my internships, that the individuals who invested more time and effort into learning and training, inside and outside of the scope of the workplace, were the ones that continually excelled and innovated. Understanding that gives me hope as a rookie in the workplace, because although skills and experience are super important, an open mind to learn new things is just as critical to professional success.

  1. (Most) People Want to Help You

Just like in almost any context, if you enter a workplace as an intern or a newbie, be warned that you may encounter some not-so-nice people. I’ve met people who had an inflated sense of ego and made me feel like I was wasting their precious time. People who used the fact that I was “just an intern” to get me to do their grunt work, or pay me less respect than they would anyone else. In my experience though, those people are few and far between, and their attitude was definitely more a reflection of them than it was of me.

Nasty people aside, I was truly amazed and humbled by how many people were so willing to take time out of their schedules to sit with me, explain to me what they do and how they do it, show me examples of past work and give me some truly valuable advice. That’s what interning is all about. What’s more, I felt like these industry experts became invested in my success, were generous with constructive criticism and feedback and super encouraging all-around. I think that many industry veterans could remember being in my shoes- a university student who has no idea about what they want to pursue after graduation and were happy for the opportunity to give something back.

  1. Students Do Have Something to Contribute

For the average “entry-level” role, job ads often have an impossibly long list of expectations outside of a tertiary qualification. Reading through the lists of skills and experience that I was expected to have before I even graduated made me feel like I was already so far behind. I thought I didn’t have anything useful to contribute to a business and I just simply wasn’t worth hiring. I used to shudder at sheer number of talented students in my cohort, not to mention all the other graduates from other universities, who surely had way more experience and achieved much better marks than I did.

Through interning, I slowly began to realise that, although they needed some work and development, I actually did already have useful and valuable skills to contribute. Just because I didn’t have the job title and the salary, that didn’t mean that my work was bad or that I was dumb. In fact, my unique “young, hip millennial” perspective and ability to use Google/YouTube to quickly learn new things served me in good stead over the course of my internships. Building that confidence in my abilities was a really invaluable lesson that interning taught me.

  1. Girls Really Do Run The (Corporate) World

I’ve had plenty of positive female role models growing up; my mum, my female relatives, teachers and family friends. Women who just roll up their sleeves and get things done. Women who put in the extra time needed to do things properly. Women who take the initiative and command respect in their own fields. The main difference was, my experience of women was usually in a personal context, not a professional one. Before interning, my work experience, from hospitality, to retail, to private tutoring, told me that leaders and bosses are generally men. Even though I knew that women were bosses too, I hadn’t really had too many chances to see it in practice.

During the course of both of my internships, I had the opportunity to meet, and work closely with, so many certified Boss Women. I’m talking Department Heads, Managing Directors, Senior Management and Chief Executives who brought to the table years of experience, insights, visions, strategies and skills. They could command respect and speak with authority. They had their own side hustles outside of work and were killing it. I learned that women in charge aren’t scary and they don’t have to be aggressive, competitive or masculine like what is so often perpetuated in political discourse. It might sound like a bit of a random lesson, but it’s one that was super important for me.

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Yaas girl. via giphy.

Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been an intern? Maybe you’ve taken one under your wing? Do you relate to any of the lessons I’ve shared above?

One Week on the Ketogenic Diet

It’s 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting in the living room in my fluffy pink robe, ignoring the boring Netflix comedy special I’ve started, in favour of scrolling through my generic Instagram feed. I’m at home and not at work because this pesky thing called uni is back on for semester two and I need to attend a class later on. Without a regular routine and busy schedule, I’m a bit of a mess. It’s probably been about an hour since I had my breakfast- a whole packet of chocolate cream biscuits dunked in coffee- and I’m thinking it’s time for something savoury.

As I rip into a packet of Shapes (chicken crimpy, takes me back), it hits me that I probably can’t continue living off packaged foods for every meal. Not only do I feel bloated and ‘blergh’, but I also notice that treating myself to a sugary-carby snack here and there leads to cravings for more only a few hours later, becoming a never-ending cycle.

I decide right there and then (right after I finish this box of shapes) that I need something of a “cleanse”. A fresh start to help me break the blood-sugar spike addiction and motivate me to practice the good eating habits which I know are buried somewhere deep down inside. Enter: keto.

What is Keto?

The ketogenic diet, ‘keto’ for short, is a high fat and extremely low carb diet (ideally <20g) that is *supposed* to change your metabolic chemistry so your body starts running on fat instead of carbohydrates- don’t ask me how it works.

I’ve been curious about this diet for a while, with a few of my friends (including a certified medical doctor) swearing by it for rapid weight loss, eliminated cravings and higher energy levels, all while chowing down on full-fat cheese, bacon, eggs and avocado.

On the other hand, going without any form of bread, potatoes or rice for an extended period of time not only sounds like some form of cruel and unusual torture, but raises flags around the safety and sustainability of this particular eating style. I decided to put these concerns aside and road test keto for myself. Here’s how it went:

Day 1- Wednesday: It Begins

Breakfast: I wake up and make myself scrambled eggs with cheese. So far so good. I enjoy it so much that I miss my train and arrive to my first 9am tutorial at 9:25. Luckily the tutor is Italian and seems to have arrived about 5 minutes before me.

Lunch: I leave the cosy cafe I’m studying in at and move outside in the sun to eat my lunch. I’ve brought half a packet of pre-mixed kale salad in a box and a tin of tuna (hence why I’ve moved outside). I also eat a few slices of Gimbap (a Korean version of sushi) which my cousin gifted me a few days before and subsequently realise I’ve just eaten white rice. Oops. I consider giving up for the day and starting fresh tomorrow but instead decide to just keep it up and act like that didn’t happen.

Afternoon snack: Protein shake while walking between classes.

Dinner: I’m super hungry when I get home but I can’t seem to locate anything without carbs or added sugar. I make a mental note to go grocery shopping tomorrow night to pick up some protein and veggies. I snack on cheese slices and roast beef in the meantime.

I go to the gym and then meet up with my best friend for dinner. except she’s having dinner and I’m eating a small tub of YoPro that I smuggled in, plus a pot of peppermint tea.

Day 2- Thursday: Struggles of Eating Out

Breakfast: Today I’m at work so I skip breakfast because I’m barely awake when I leave the house.

Lunch: Mornings are always hectic and I don’t get a chance to eat anything before lunch time rolls around. Today I’m having lunch with my team at a picturesque bowls club up the road from work. I order a chicken salad which is covered in dried cranberries. Not strictly keto because they’re high in sugar but I’m not going to sit here and pick them out.

Dinner: Tonight is date night! I resign myself to the fact that wherever we go and whatever I order, it’s going to be more expensive since this diet is all about the extra protein. After much back-and-forth (no Italian- can’t do pasta or pizza, no burgers, no ramen, no sushi) we decide on a Middle Eastern restaurant since they’ll definitely have meat. I ignore the basket of fried lebanese bread and hummus (actually my two favourite foods) and enjoy a filling chicken shawarma plate and some sujuk.

Day 5- Sunday: The MVP at Subway Saves My Night

Breakfast: By the time Sunday comes around, I’ve already noticed a huge reduction in my appetite and cravings. I’m not hungry this morning but it’s Sunday so I make myself scrambled eggs and sit down to eat with my family.

Mid-morning: My church is running a bake sale to raise money for a charity project. In the face of several tables laden with delicious home baked desserts, I feel absolutely no desire to have any. I give my little sister money to put in the donation bucket and laugh as she bites into a choc chip muffin that turned out to be a banana choc-chip muffin. Sucker.

Lunch: Our big group decides to head to the park for a picnic lunch. I bring a bag of meatballs and a packet of blue cheese from Woolies plus my mini bluetooth speaker because ⁓vibes⁓. We stretch out in the sunshine and play extreme Uno which makes everyone angry.

Dinner: With no suitable food in the house (I should probably get around to buying those groceries), we decide to head to Subway for a salad. I ask for a chicken salad with double meat, extra cheese, avocado and extra jalapenos. The server doesn’t charge me for any of the extras and I think he’s my new best friend.

Day 6- Tuesday: Chocolate Cravings Strike

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese and ¼ avocado

Lunch: I set myself a long to-do list and then proceed to ignore it and instead go get my nails done and pick up some groceries. As I walk into Coles, I’m greeted by the amazing smell of fresh bread and melted chocolate. I casually realise in this moment that I NEED CHOCOLATE NOW. I head to the health food aisle and spend an eternity reading nutrition labels until I’m satisfied that I’ve found keto chocolate.

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When you want that summer body but you NEED chocolate.

I try the protein stix (stick?) right away and while it’s not chocolate, it’s actually not bad. I save the sugar-free dark chocolate for later. I pick my sister up from school and we eat some left over roast chicken and green salad (no dressing for me). I snack on nuts throughout the afternoon.

Dinner: My brother and I head to the gym and I do a basic leg workout and go for a jog on a high incline treadmill. For once, I’m prepared for dinner tonight and cook up some atlantic salmon with broccoli. Simple, filling and definitely feels healthier than the fried halloumi I had for dinner last night.

Results after one week

While the first few days had some accidental carb-consuming hiccups, I’m actually feeling pretty good after one week following a keto style diet. According to the scales, I’ve dropped about 1-1.5kg and have definitely experienced a massive reduction in appetite and cravings. For now, I might keep it going to see just how far I can take it. So far so good right? Stay tuned for an update coming soon!

Pros: reduced appetite, reduced cravings, weight loss, easy to stick to after a few days,

Cons: limited food options, hard to find suitable food when out, low energy in first few days, expensive, requires will power at the beginning, can be low in fibre.

What have you heard about the keto diet? Let me know what your thoughts are by commenting below!

Why Impostor Syndrome is Holding You Back

The first time I ever read about impostor syndrome, I recognised it in myself immediately. If you haven’t heard of it, impostor syndrome is defined as “an individual experience of self-perceived intellectual phoniness”. In other words, feeling like all of your accomplishments and successes come down to either somehow having cheated the system or just plain luck.

The phenomenon was introduced by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It’s since been described as feeling like a fraud, feeling like praise is undeserved or wrongly attributed, feeling like any second, everyone is going to realise that you’ve been faking it this whole time and you’re actually a talentless, a try-hard, over-privileged sham.

Impostor syndrome is often associated with high achieving women with perfectionist tendencies. I’m not really sure why that is. It could be that we feel we have something to prove and so work harder, only to then feel like all that hard work was somehow ‘inauthentic’. It could be that we compare ourselves to other women, discounting our own accomplishments because they don’t fit what society seems to value in women.

Men also experience impostor syndrome. Again, it’s usually the high achievers, the ones who link their accomplishments with their own intrinsic self-worth. The ones who can never seem to be good enough.

The funny thing is, impostor syndrome isn’t just about thinking you’re not good enough. It’s also about thinking you’re so good that it can’t possibly be real. This weird combination of low self esteem and hubris makes it even more confusing to approach.

What it looks like

We try to rebrand our fear of putting ourselves out there as modesty. We work extra hard to attain good grades or excellent feedback but can’t be proud because we probably put in twice the effort of anyone else. We know that we deserve that promotion but we’re also sure that someone with real ‘natural talent’ could easily overtake us if they wanted to.

The worst part of all of this in my opinion, is that we’re so afraid of failure, that we refuse to even try in the first place. We say things like “Who do I think I am to be applying for this position?”, “Who am I to offer advice?” and “What’s the point of starting if I’m not going to be the best?”

See, therein lies the problem. We’re not satisfied with trying and failing. We’re not satisfied with average. We think that if we’re not at the top, then we’ve wasted our time, embarrassed ourselves and ruined our reputation. While people are always trying to frame perfectionism as a good thing, I think it’s actually holding so many of us back.

We think that holding ourselves to higher standards means that we’ll do better work, but the reverse is often true. Being afraid of failure means that we’re less likely to seek help and advice from people who could seriously help us improve. We hoard the work instead of delegating and end up stressed, burnt out and frustrated. It comes as no surprise, then, that impostor syndrome is linked to depression, generalized anxiety and low self-esteem.

How to overcome it

Impostor syndrome is hard to overcome. It’s very nature is illogical, so simply talking yourself out of it isn’t going to cut it in most cases. Just like overcoming any fear, I think it may be helpful to confront it head on with these actions:

1. Talk To People To Realise That Everyone Is Faking It

Whether you’re going for a professional role, inspired to start your own business or put yourself out there in some way, opening up to someone and admitting that you feel out of your depth can help take some of that pressure off. In most cases, you’ll be surprised to hear the other person tell you that they also have no idea what they’re doing. The fact is, everyone has their flaws and challenges and no one is perfect. When you take down that façade, you open up brand new potential for learning and growth.

Communication is key. Have you ever spoken to the CEO of your company? Have you ever had a conversation with a successful business owner that you admire? The chances are that if you did take the time to reach out and have that chat, you’d realise that behind all the titles, corporate suits and personal branding, there’s a person just like you who shows up every day and gives it a go. They might even have experienced a touch of impostor syndrome too!

2. Give Yourself Permission To Fail

This is a trick that I used to use before every high school exam. I would ask myself: what’s the worst that could happen? If I score less than my desired mark, will it be the end of the world? No. If I fail this exam, will it be the end of the world? No. At the end of the day, I still have my health, a family that loves me. And yes, I’m sure I’ll still pass the exam.

A scientist doesn’t throw in the towel when she gets results that aren’t in line with her original hypothesis. She simply makes some detailed notes, might adjust her approach, reset the experiment, and do it again. It’s nothing personal, it’s just science.

Practice failing on purpose. If you’re uncoordinated, sign up for a dance class. If you’re a terrible singer, go to a karaoke bar and get up on stage. The purpose isn’t just to learn something new, but also to learn that failure isn’t the end of the world. So what, your surfing instructor said you were the worst student he’s ever taught- you’re still closer to success than the people wading in the shallow end.

The truth is, most situations are not life and death. A lot of the stressing that we do and extra effort that we put in- staying up studying for hours or putting in overtime at work- probably has a very minor, if not negative, effect on our results. I’d challenge you to honestly ask yourself:

“What’s the worst that could happen if I politely decline checking my emails outside of hours?”

“What’s the worst that could happen if I leave this ‘urgent’ task until tomorrow?”

Even,

“What’s the worst that could happen if I start the business and then it fails?”

Maybe your concerned about what other people will think. In reality, people don’t judge us half as much as we think they do, and even if they did, isn’t that their problem and not ours? In any case, even when we do make mistakes and fail, we end up learning something new along the way, bringing us ever closer to success.

3. Just Do It.

I admire people who just jump in and strike while the iron is hot. People who don’t worry about what others will think or what could possibly go wrong. People who trust their intuition. Yes, some people are born fearless, but if you’re a serial overthinker and contingency planner like me, this doesn’t come naturally.

Set yourself a challenge to step outside of your comfort zone: start that blog/website/YouTube channel or side business. Apply for that job that’s just a little out of your reach. Send that random unsolicited email to that person whose career you admire. Put your hand up for promotions and awards.

Set yourself a date and time. Get your equipment ready. Make yourself a to-do list. Give yourself the same respect that you would give your employer by showing up on time and giving 100%.

If you fail, you fail. At least you can say you tried.

Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome? What’s something that you’ve been holding off from trying due to feelings of inadequacy? Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips on how you overcome it!