Category: Biography

So grateful to have a brother

So grateful to have a brother

My brother and I had an eventful childhood, to say the least. We argued a lot, pulled each-other’s hair on a regular basis, and never seemed to be on the same page really. Still, he always loved me, since he was born, and I always loved him. I first started to daydream about running away from home when I was five and he was two, and despite always scrapping with him, I always, always imagined taking him with me – just the two of us. I was allowed to yell at him when my parents weren’t around, but if anyone ever said anything about him, I would defend him and protect him, and feel outraged. 🙂 It made no sense I guess, but all it was was that we didn’t know how to get along, we took responsibilities we were too young to take, we just got used to treating each-other a certain way. We didn’t know better. I resented him because I was put in charge of him and ended up paying for his mistakes, and he was so kind and pure, he had no idea why I pushed him away. When we grew older it got better, but it wasn’t until I was sixteen and he was thirteen, that I truly saw my brother for the amazing person he really is. We became really really close, and all I felt for him was love. We stayed close our whole lives (I’m now 43 and he just turned 40) and I respect him so much for who he is.
One day, a few years ago, we were making fun of each-other mainly to make the family laugh – he was already married, so was I, we had kids already – and I remember telling everyone how annoying he was when he was little, and how he made my life a lot harder than it had to be. I was thinking of what I had gone through: he would fall and I would get punished, he would cry and I would get beat up. Obviously my response was to avoid him so I could avoid what was coming to me the minute he cried. To me, as much as I loved him, he was persona non grata. But that day, as I was saying he was unbearable and he was saying I was mean to him, I saw a whole side of the story I had never seen:
He was little, he looked up to me, he wanted to be with me, and I wasn’t there for him. Sure I was a child, but so was he, and it hurt me so much that day to realize that as much as I had a miserable childhood, so had he, and I had a big role to play in that. I avoided him, I was annoyed at him, I didn’t want him to bother me, I just resented him. He brought me trouble, but I had never seen him from his end, and it breaks my heart that I was that person – someone capable of hurting someone else. I felt so much regret that day.
I remember clearly being sixteen and one day feeling completely different about him: he was so pure, so kind, so funny, and such an incredible human being. That day, our relationship changed forever, and it never turned back. I felt so fortunate to have a brother. I also remember how painful it was to realize, in my thirties, that I had not been there for him.
I have two sons, and never have I ever tolerated that one be unkind to the other. It hurt me, I couldn’t let it happen. I wanted for them to love each-other and care for each-other, and they did, and still do. They never pulled each-other’s hair for hours saying “I’ll let go if you let go”, and they never told on each-other. I couldn’t bare the thought of one of them feeling emotionally hurt in their own family. When I realized that while my whole life I felt like I had to endure my brother when he was little, and pay dearly for his mistakes, all that time, I had been the one who shut him down and didn’t give him love. I remember feeling so sad that day, I never made fun of our childhood mishaps again.
I was thinking about this today because he came over, after working all day, just to see how I was doing. My husband is away but my sons were home, and my brother is one of the only adult people they enthusiastically stay around and chat to, because they love him.
He makes me laugh so much, and he is so wise, I am in awe of the person that he is. I just can’t believe how lucky I am to know him and to have him in my family. I feel so proud to say he is my brother, and so grateful to have him in our lives. On top of that, I love his wife who is like a sister to me, and they have three incredible daughters that I love as much as my own.
Today my brother came over and brought way too many doughnuts (I almost never eat doughnuts), and we just talked about life, relationships, kids, experiences, work, everything. He is always there for me, and I will always be there for him.
So it got me thinking about two things:

  1. how incredible it is that a relationship can change from one day to another, how easy it can be to just start over emotionally, start fresh, even as a teenager, and never look back – leave old stories behind. Yet, how hard (read: impossible) we think it is, even after having experienced it firsthand; and
  2. how our own stories about our lives can be so real in our minds that we think we understand the other person, but we really didn’t see it from their point of view, and I mean truly from their point of view. I consider myself to be an intelligent, intuitive, sensitive person and yet, it took me more than thirty years to see things from my brother’s point of view. I still can’t believe how real our “stories” about our own lives feel. How far they can be from another’s experience of the same time, the same event.

This is incredibly humbling. I catch myself re-evaluating my own feelings and opinions, my own relationships. Can I be so sure that I am being fair, that I am truly understanding things from everyone’s point of view?
I’ve had a few moments in the past year where I was just there, listening to someone talk, and all of a sudden completely seeing things from their own perspective. It almost feels surreal, where I am thinking of the many times they shared the same things with me in the past and they just didn’t register, they didn’t have the meaning they had at that moment.
It amazes me how difficult it is to truly quiet our minds and listen to another, without feelings, without judgement, without analyzing before it had a chance to just be. Often I feel that our feelings about another person, or a situation, have already been tainted by our own interpretation of things, and as hard as we try to listen, truly listen, we still decided what to make of the information, and missed what the other was trying to say.
Life truly is an amazing and beautiful experience.

Today’s challenge: Recover a whole week’s worth of work in 1 day 🎯

Today’s challenge: Recover a whole week’s worth of work in 1 day 🎯

It’s 1pm and I finally feel well enough to work – yay! Still at home, my dog Tabbie by my side, my sons J and D reading their books, my hubby Alex is not home until very very late tonight, so I have the ideal environment. I’m ready.
Can it be done?

I have seen children play an intense videogame non-stop for 8 to 12 hours, sometimes more. My sons have, when they first got a game. Hours of intense focus and drive. This is no different. I have focus, drive, and I’m definitely interested in the work – I love what I do, so why not?

I will talk some other time about videogames, I am sure as a teacher and founder of an educational program, the last thing anyone wants to hear is that I support videogame playing for 8 to 12 hours, or that I support it at all for that matter.

I won’t go into it right now (I have work to catch up on – haha!) but what I will say is this: It’s always better not to adopt an all-or-nothing attitude about things like videogames. My sons have gone through phases, and that’s normal. Often they don’t play for months and months, and other times, a new game comes out and they want to play all day and all night. I think that’s great for them. They demonstrate perseverance, passion, drive, all good things. Besides, often they invite their friends (at my house we normally have our 2 boys and then all the boys in the neighbourhood, which we love), they are social, they have an amazing time. I find that because we don’t forbid them from doing that when they really want to, they don’t feel the need, the desire, to play like that all the time. I always ensure that my sons are the ones making the decisions for themselves, and you would be surprised, often they are a lot more strict with themselves than you would have been. They have a very pure sense of right and wrong.

Could I be more strict and forbid videogames completely at my house? Definitely, but what I have seen, for the most part, in households that are that strict, is that children hide from their parents, and play anyway, at their friends’ houses. I don’t want a relationship with my children where they lie to me just to do what they want. When that’s the case, you are no longer in the space as the parent where you can coach them. Besides, not all videogames are terrible. What we have tried instead is to discuss with them what playing too much does to their brains (it helps that I do a lot of research on brain development – I have credible evidence), and help them decide for themselves what an acceptable amount of time would be per week. If they want to use all that time in one day, then fine, they just know that they won’t have any time left for the rest of the week. The result?: moderation and self-control.

Anyway, I digress. Classical music is on, a hot cup of coffee my son made me by my side, 137 e-mails and 99 to dos – back to work 🙂


#something to #remember when I feel #down on myself

#something to #remember when I feel #down on myself

Most of the lovely e-mails, letter, cards and words I receive are not for me to share. They are heartfelt and personal, and it would diminish the sentiment if I just posted them. But since this is my journal, and I do want to remember some of those things exactly as they happened, I will share the ones that are ok to share, and I won’t share names or personal details.
I got this e-mail note at work today:
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Why having a #Strategic #Plan completely changed my #business

Why having a #Strategic #Plan completely changed my #business

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At home today with Tabbie, working on CEFA’s Strategic Plan for the next quarter. After reading the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish about 4 years ago, I implemented the whole book. Followed absolutely everything it said.

I remember the first time I read the book, it was like the secret to success in business for me! I felt like this perfect fail-proof system had been revealed. I read it all, then I carefully highlighted the whole book, then I took it to my NY Retreat (New Year Retreat -I have it every year on the last week of August, all by myself), and didn’t leave the hotel room until I had completed my first One Page Strategic Plan (I ate a lot of green apples that week-end, courtesy of the W Hotels, and meal replacement bars… I get pretty focused). Then I re-read the book and entered in my to dos every single thing I had to complete in order to fully implement what was taught in the book. I think my brain swelled that week. I found it so difficult, and this coming from someone who loves learning and holds a GPA of 4.23 (straight A+ in all the courses). I had never studied business, and this book was the first step towards a very long and incredible path in my “business career”. When I finally left that week-end, still wobbly in my newfound knowledge, I honestly thought I was holding the key that opens every door (in French it’s called a passe-partout – not sure of the name in English). What happened when I returned to Vancouver and to my office, was nothing short of a very painful miracle (yes, those exist).

I gathered my team and excitedly shared with them what I had learned. Until then, I had run my franchise business like a mom-and-pop operation. Personally, I was really driven and always set (and achieve) high goals. It just had never occurred to me to set common goals and work on them with my staff (I know, strange). I shared my strategic plan with them, and we modified it to come up with goals we all found achievable and exciting. The plan was for 3 years, then broken into 1 year, then further broken into 3 months. From that, every team came up with a to do list to achieve their 3 month goals. They looked at their list every 2 weeks, and decided which items needed to get done in the following 2 weeks in order to reach their goals/targets. By the end of the 3 months, the target was achieved (one small step at a time). The plan was perfect! I even made my own 2 week forms that we could all use, and each team had its own little part. It was so great! I then immediately added a bonus structure for everyone. If their team achieved their goals by the end of the month (2 sets of two week goals), each person on the team would receive a bonus. If every team reached their goal, then everyone would receive double the bonus amount.

It was all great, except for one thing: people who did not “work” in the past (they kept busy, but didn’t achieve anything) started to quit. They felt very self-conscious, because they had to report every 2 weeks that they did not achieve the goals that they themselves had set for their team. You do that a few times in a row and it’s unbearable. Some people resented having to set goals, and were in my office every day convincing me to go back to the old way of no accountability. Some decided they had been with the company long enough and didn’t need to fill out anything. Once they were reminded that the one page strategic plan was not optional, they also started to leave. The reason it was painful, is because these were my friends! I had worked with some of these girls for five, ten, twelve years, and saw them get angry at me and leave. I was hurting. On one hand, i felt it was a great decision to implement a strategic plan, and set common goals. On the other hand, it was very painful to see people leave because the job was no longer convenient for them. I felt so sad… I lost a few “friends”, and at that time, having focused on my business, my children, my husband and my family every minute of every day, I didn’t have a lot of spare friends 🙂 It was hard to see people I treated as my closest friends, just leave and never look back. I felt really lonely and confused.

As painful as it was, this move was a huge blessing. My team became very driven, and although the turnover was hard on everyone, it was also what was best. We started working on our one page strategic plan all the time, and everyone “ran” the business “like a boss” (one of my favourite sayings). They were so good that they were even telling me what I needed to do and who I needed to hire to keep moving forward. For the next three years, we grew by at least 40% each year, and I had more time as well, even time to make new friends!

When I hired a president for our company, a year ago, I explained the Rockefeller Habit to him, and asked that we continue with its implementation. Having said that, I let him run the company the way he preferred. There is nothing wrong than to be in charge but not able to do things the way that worked for you in the past. I kept doing my plan, but didn’t really implement it at work the way I used to.

Today, my to do list announced that I had to fill out the new strategic plan for the quarter (that’s the beauty of recurring to dos!), so I pulled it out and dusted it off. Much to my surprise, it was also the end of the 1 year goals and time to set goals for the following 1 year (Quarter One: July to June). When I looked at the yearly goals to write new ones, I realized that we had exceeded the goals i had set the year before!! 🙂 I was so happy! This time last year, those goals seemed so difficult to reach, almost like a dream… and we did it.

I am reading the updated version of the book now (Scaling Up), and very excited to get back to following exactly what it says, together with Mr. President 🙂

I still find some of the figures a little confusing, but filling out the plan is now very easy to me! Looking back at my first steps in this venture really made me appreciate how far we have come. Today, we have an incredible, high-performing team, I have great friends and even a best friend (I didn’t have such a great friend since I lost my two best friends at age 14 – another story for another day)! I have a more balanced life and I feel like I know what I am doing when it comes to business. I have read over 125 business books since then, and implemented numerous things that have contributed to our success. This year, we grew by 70%, thanks to everyone’s passion and hard work, and also to Mr. President, who keeps us all on target. 🙂

I never thought I would be so passionate about business. I wanted to be a teacher since I was 2 years old, and it was only after almost 15 years in business that I decided I didn’t know enough about business to run a business of the magnitude that ours had become. Especially as a franchisor, I feel that my franchisees are counting on me to know what I am doing, and to make wise decisions in order to always stay #1. Today, I still get to be a “nice” boss like I did back then, but the people we attract is completely different than before, in a good way. Thank you Verne Harnish!

xo n

Why #passionate people have flat butts

Why #passionate people have flat butts

Good evening!
I’ve been working since very (very) early this morning. I sat at our dining room table with my computer, in my hello kitty pjs, opened the doors and windows so I felt like I was outside enjoying the incredible day, and then started to work. I cleared my inbox of 73 e-mails (and yet, I had dealt with my e-mails last night till 9pm), and then looked at my TO DO list. One day I will talk about my to do list, it is an amazing thing! I was born with the gift of structure and organization, which really comes in handy when you are a franchisor 🙂 I like to have my head completely clear when I’m working, so I can think and focus on the task at hand. Anyway, I divert. I looked at my to do list to choose my top 3 things to do today, as I do every day, except everything seemed like a top 1 or 2, and I had 63 items. Ouch. Some items are easy enough and can be done in 5 minutes, but the majority take between 20 minutes and 3 hours. They are the things that I can’t delegate, and normally they are the very important business decisions, or the writing. I love it all, but even if everything took 30 minutes, I could never finish 63 items today.
It’s now almost 9pm. My hubby was kind enough to go for dinner with Dominick, who had an unusual craving for mussels. Normally I would go but today I stupidly thought that if I just worked a little more, I would get it all done. So I’m still sitting on my dining room chair, in the same position as this morning, doing exactly the same thing: typing on my computer. I have 11 items left, but they are hard ones and I know I won’t have time to finish tonight. One of them is putting together a One page Strategic Plan for CEFA for this quarter. It requires thinking. I love doing it, but you really need to set time aside and do it well. I’ve done it many times before. It does get easier, but it doesn’t take any less time.
Still, I am very happy with all that I have accomplished today. Aaannnnndddd, I still have a few hours left.
Normally I am really great at the work-life balance thing, but there are days where you know if you just sit and work your buns off, you will grow in leaps and bounds. That’s why passionate people have flat as… er, butts, they sit and write for hours, they work work work, they just keep going! So many times I told my husband “If I could be by myself in a room for 4 days, I could finish this” – this being a book, or a plan for the next 25 years, or a new educational approach to incorporate. Huge things that make me just pee myself with excitement. Sometimes I do it, but most time, I respect the fact that I am needed at home, and great ideas will have to wait. It’s a little sad sometimes, because you can see things soooooo clearly in your mind, and you know you can “unload” it and it will be perfect, but you just can’t put life in pause too often. So you do what you can, and then the clarity fades away, and you keep working on your project, but knowing somehow that it won’t be as good as you had created it the first time. Does it make sense?
Sometimes I just stay up all night and get something done right then and there, but as I get a little older, it really disrupts the rest of the day. There’s no way I have the stamina to keep going for days and days without sleeping like I did before.
Anyway, all this to say that it is amazing when you have something huge to accomplish (as we do now at CEFA) and you get the chance to work on it the whole day. I asked my son if it would be ok for me to work all day and explained why. I don’t normally do this. We found this book of experiments for him to work on, which he read for hours. Then he had friends, and of course spent hours with Tabbie, our mini dog, and now he went to eat his mussels with his dad, so he had a great day. We worked at the dining room table together (which is what I love about a dining room table), and every once in a while he would look up at me and say “how many left?” (meaning how many to dos) and I would say 54! 42! 30 now! and he would encourage me the same way I encourage him. This young man is truly a gift to others. He is so empathetic and caring, and so mature!
My oldest is with his cousins in Uruguay, and loving it. He took this incredibly beautiful photo today of him in the beach in Uruguay and called it “home”. We had tears in our eyes. Another day I can talk about what it’s like belonging to more than one country/place at the same time. You are at home in more than one place, but you are also never quite at “home” – you are split. I live this, my husband does too, but to see that our sons feel the same way is very meaningful. It means the pull of their family in Uruguay is so strong that they feel that they also belong there. It is incredible when I think about it, that he doesn’t feel like a visitor in a country he was not born in, nor lived in. I am so proud of him! There’s a lot more to the story but I really want to try to finish a few more “to dos” before tomorrow morning.
OH!!! My other huge share for today is that I felt so touched by my staff, as usual. Mr. President (the president of our company) is on holidays, yet he came into the office almost every day, to work on this project. He didn’t even know if I was going to be in or not, he just went and worked. Last night was Sunday and I was working until quite late, and e-mails kept coming all day from him, even though he is on holidays, and even though it is Sunday. I always tell my team not to work after 5, and not to work on week-ends. Still, many just do, and always have. They are passionate individuals who make a difference, who don’t just work to get paid, they work to make things better, move things forward, make a difference. When you own a business, when you have the joy of doing exactly what you wanted to do since you were little, you expect to have a flat butt, but it blows my mind to see people making a difference within my dream because they are the only ones who can, and because they want to. They, too, have flat bottoms from sitting for hours, working. I give thanks for them, and feel overwhelmingly grateful that they chose CEFA as their path to make a difference. They are extraordinary people.
I wish I could write for many more hours, just to remember how incredible the day was, how many life changing things happened, and how much I loved living this day. Most days I don’t really write about all those things because it takes too much time, but I feel incredibly grateful and I wish I could share.
Back to work! Wake up call at 5am tomorrow to start all over again.


Tired but happy

Tired but happy

I have so much to share, but I am absolutely exhausted. I had a fun-filled day with my son, although it was more his kind of fun than mine 😉 I love him dearly. We are going crazy tomorrow too, tandem bikes and all! Wish me luck and, especially, a good night sleep. My hubby is in a Landmark course all weekend, and my oldest son is spending a month in Uruguay with family, so it’s just Dominick and I having the time of our lives.
I actually wanted to share some less than idyllic news bout today, but honestly I am so tired, I will try to remember tomorrow. The good news about my brain is that sometimes I forget the bad stuff, so it is quite possible that tomorrow I will have no ideal what got me a little worried today, but i think all in all, it it a good thing 🙂 If I remember I will share.
Good night to allb67bc-11417332_1654189294814378_161237530_n!
xo n

happy day, shitty mood.

Today I graduated, and I felt happy. I had been looking forward to this for days, but much to my surprise, my happiness vanished before I even held the certificate in my hands.
As I was about to get called to get it, I read an e-mail from work which was as dramatic as could be. I answered of course, and there is no real issue, but it bothered me to get it, and I just wanted to deal with it right away, except e-mail would not be the right vehicle, so I sent a vanilla answer. Sometimes these things make you questions some of the choices you made, and doubt your own perception of the way things are. It took the fun out of the rest of the day. It was not even the content, but the fact that the person sent it, and chose to deal with the situation that way. It took all I had to send a “pretty” reply.
The rest of the day, as people were congratulating me for my huge successes, I felt like I always feel: Like I still have a long, long way to go before I can celebrate.
My brain understands I can choose to put it into context, but my mood/heart did not catch up with my brain yet.
Anyway, tomorrow will be a new day. I will hopefully have the maturity to deal with whatever comes my way. Until then, good night.suck_the_fun_out_funny_poster_sign-ra7f68f6b63af45128937e50810b53b96_fze7w_8byvr_512

Time to celebrate

I feel elated. Since yesterday, I’ve been so happy (well, also a bit cranky from the antihistamines and nausea, but happy on the inside!) because Alex and I have successfully completed another stage in life.
We dated
We got married
We had a child
We had another child
We decided our family was complete
We had babies
Then Children
Then older children
We don’t have children anymore, we have teenagers!!!!! yippee!!!!
I have loved and enjoyed every single second of every single one of those stages, so it’s not about “being done” – what makes me so happy is that we completed a stage very successfully, you know? We can proudly say that we were very good parents. That gives me an incredible amount of satisfaction! Finishing something without screwing it up! Yay!
And now we have two beautiful teenage boys at home, and I am also loving every minute of it. Every night I think: We are so lucky to have the sons we have! They are too good to be true. I know I am a good parent, because I have obsessed about the art of parenting since I was a little girl, but sometimes I think that it’s not just about being a good parent, it’s about having won the lottery with the sons we got. They are unbelievable, they make it so easy! I waited their whole childhood for the crisis moments, the bad experiences, and now their childhood has ended and there were none! Now they are teens, and judging by Julian’s stellar behaviour so far (Dominick is only one day into it), we’re cruising so far.
So this Saturday, Alex and I are going to “La Régalade”, our favourite French restaurant, to celebrate and toast the culmination of an incredible journey.

I forgot to tell you about multicultural day!

It’s 5pm. We just dropped off Julian is at a class, we have 60 minutes before picking him up, and I have to get dinner with Dominick in the meantime. We are driving.
(Translated from French)
Me: Are you excited about your birthday tomorrow?
Dominick: So excited!
Me: are you sure you don’t want a cake to bring to class? Just the Hubba Bubba? [last week, in preparation for his birthday, we bought 30 packs of hubba bubba, which Dominick wanted to give to his friends instead of a cake]
Dominick: Well, ok, I can bring a cake tomorrow, but it has to be a cake from somewhere else in the world…
Me: What do you mean, from a different country?
Dominick: Yes, tomorrow, we have a multicultural potluck at school.
Me: Oh?
Dominick: And I have to bring something to share that is from Uruguay. We should make “milanesas” (breaded beef cutlets typical of Uruguay) for the whole class!! And we can bring a cake made of “dulce de leche”!
Me: (wondering how many nights I can go on 5 hours of sleep) Great idea!

The milanesas look great, so does the cake. The presents are all wrapped. The house is full of balloons and streamers, and every table is decorated with candy, confetti, presents, balloons, and other birthday favorites. Dominick is deliriously happy. Just to see his excitement makes it all worth while. I don’t mind smelling like the bottom of a frying pan until tomorrow morning, I am the happiest too!


Natacha V. Beim is a renowned writer, speaker and educational leader. Born in Uruguay and raised in Montréal, Canada, she has traveled extensively and studied several countries’ educational approaches. She now resides in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons. She is the Founder and CEO of Core Education & Fine Arts (, and divides her time between research, writing and speaking engagements. Beim has many accomplishments in her name: She wrote a poetry book at the age of sixteen, which got published and was sold out; She speaks three languages fluently and understands two more; She twice took two years in one in high-school, graduating two years sooner; and excelled in many areas, including as a teacher, ballerina, model, journalist, painter, writer, actress (theatre) and runner. Although she devotes some of her time to these interests, her passion, and most of her time, is in the cefa junior kindergarten schools she created, which continue to expand rapidly throughout North America. “I always wanted to be a teacher, to help others find their passion in life. With Core Education & Fine Arts, I know that children will have this incredible opportunity to not only explore and learn (and love it!), but also, and more importantly, to discover themselves, and in the process, find out how to contribute to the world.” Says Beim.

And contribute, she does! Despite cefa’s incredible success, she still spends much of her time researching educational methods for the early years from around the world, including programs currently used in France, Britain, Italy, Asia and South America. Natacha Beim is a pioneer in the field of modern education.  She is pursuing more studies in developmental psychology, focusing on the early years, exploring everything from what to teach children, to how to convey that knowledge to them.  Her rich and modern view on education and development, and her incredible passion for life, have made Natacha Beim a fascinating speaker, enriching parents and educators alike.

Beim also continues to design educational games, as well as toys and classroom environments. But despite her busy career, she is the most dedicated mother, wife and friend, and a kind and giving person. She is an inspiration to all, and the more you know her, the more you feel inspired. The curriculum she created (the cefa curriculum) has been used successfully for over 15 years in several schools in North America, and will be used internationally in the next two years. It is a highly recognized approach internationally, and far surpasses the current standards in North America and worldwide: “Regardless of what happens with me, the cefa methodology will always be current. I designed as an open source so that all great educators can contribute to it, and the program itself can successfully incorporate other philosophies. I train all our teachers to question what they are teaching and why, and to design their own, unique path, with their students. The standards and curriculum are the same for us all, but how that curriculum is delivered always depends on the teachers and students. My teachers are great thinkers. They have the opportunity to contribute of themselves to the program. And as a result, we have the most up to date, the most creative, the most advanced program.