How a Password Changed My Life

The following events occurred between ☹ and ☺.


“How could she do something like this to me?” said a voice in my head. All the time. Every day.

Back in 2011, when everything had gradients, iOS icons made sense, and people used deodorants, I was stuck in middle of a pretty bad depression due to my divorce.

Thankfully, I think I was smart enough (and had great people around me) so I found ways to stay afloat.


One day I walk into the office, and my day begins at my computer screen. It was all great, until I saw this message:

Your password has expired.
Click ‘Change password’ to change your password.

I’m breathing heavily. I’m staring at the mouse arrow.

I read this dumb message in my mind with angry grandpa voice: The password has expired.

At my workplace, the Microsoft Exchange server is configured to ask thousands of employees around the planet to change their passwords. Every 30 days.

Here is what’s annoying: The server forces us to use at least one UPPERCASE character, at least one lowercase alphabetic character, at least one symbol and at least one number. Oh, and the whole thing can’t be less than 8 characters. And I can’t use any of the same passwords I’ve used in the last 3 months.

I was furious that morning. Tuesday, 9:40 a.m. -It was so hot that my torso was already sweaty even though I just got to work. I was late. I was still wearing my helmet. I think I forgot breakfast. Something tastes like cigarette in my mouth. I need to get stuff done before my 10 a.m. meeting and all I have in front of me is a huge waste of my time.


So there it was… This input field with a pulsating cursor, waiting for me to type a password that I’ll have to re-enter for the next 30 days. Many times during the day.

Then, letting all the frustration go, I remembered a tip I heard from my former boss, Rasmus. Somehow he combined to-do lists with passwords, and I thought to use an augmented variation of that.

I’m gonna use a password to change my life.

It was obvious that I couldn’t focus on getting things done with my current lifestyle and mood. Of course, there were clear indicators of what I needed to do -or what I had to achieve- in order to regain control of my life, but we often don’t pay attention to these clues.

My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn’t let myself be victim of my recent break up, and that I’m strong enough to do something about it.

My password became: [email protected]

During my meeting I kept thinking on what I just did. Something drew a smirk on my face.

During the rest of week, I had to type this password several times a day. Each time my computer would lock. Each time my screensaver with her photo would appear. Each time I would come back from eating lunch alone.

In my mind, I went with the mantra that I didn’t type a password. In my mind, I was reminding myself to “Forgive her”.


That simple action changed the way I looked at my ex wife. That constant reminder that I should forgive her, led me to accept the way things happened at the end of my marriage, and embrace a new way of dealing with the depression that I was drowning into.

In the following days, my mood improved drastically. By the end of the 2nd week, I noticed that this password became less powerful, and it started to lose its effect. A quick refresh of this ‘mantra’ helped me. I thought to myself I forgive her as I typed it, every time. The healing effect of it came back almost immediately.


One month later, my dear exchange server asked me again to renew my password. I thought about the next thing I had to get done.

My password became [email protected]

And guess what happened. I’m not kidding you. I quit smoking overnight.

I have a ton of witnesses who could not believe how I did it. I had tried books, e-cigarettes, patches, etc. Nothing worked, but this one trick did.

This password was a painful one to type during that month, but doing it helped me to yell at myself in my mind, as I typed that statement. It motivated me to follow my monthly goal.

One month later, my password became [email protected]

Guess where I went 3 months later. Thailand.

With savings.

Thank you, password.

Seeing how these reminders helped to materialize my goals kept me motivated and excited. I’ll admit this: It is difficult to come up with your next goal. Sometimes it’s hard to identify what we need to change, or where we need to walk towards to.

Make sure your goals are realistic, and avoid being too dreamy when you phrase them. It’s important to build a metric around your goal so you can measure its success along the way. For example, if you’re on a hunt to get a better job, don’t use things like BeTh3NumberOne! but instead go with [email protected]! and use the new connections, groups and number of resumes sent as a metric to validate your efforts to land a new job. Being the number one is great, but being able to measure where you are and where you’re going is important, specially when there’s a big gap between those two points.

So why does this trick work? In its simplest form, a password enables you to get somewhere, in your digital world. Say, to copy a file, to unlock a computer, to email somebody. This feeling of micro achievements, this thought of ‘my mantra helps me to get things done’ can build up a momentum that motivates you to stay focused on achieving your monthly goals. It’s a tiny habit that has the power to transform.

It worked with me. I’m sure it will work with you.


This is how I learned that I can truly change my life, if I play it right. I kept doing this repeatedly month after month, with great results.

Here is a simplified extract of what some of my passwords have been in the last 2 years, so you get an idea of how my life has changed, thanks to this method:

  • [email protected]to my ex-wife, who started it all.
  • [email protected]it worked.
  • [email protected]it worked.
  • [email protected]it never worked, still fat.
  • [email protected]it worked.
  • [email protected]it worked. I fell in love again.
  • [email protected]it worked. It felt great!
  • [email protected]it worked.
  • [email protected]! ← it worked. We have a beautiful cat.
  • [email protected]it worked. I talk with my mom every week.

And the one for last month:

  • [email protected] Yep. Life is gonna change again, soon.

I still await very anxiously each month so I can change my password into a phrase that motivates me to focus on something that I need to get done.

This method has consistently worked for me for the last 2 years, and I have shared it with a few close friends and relatives. I didn’t think it was a breakthrough in tiny-habits but it did have a great impact in my life, so I thought to share it with you all.

Give it a try! Write these statements with the right mindset and attitude, and you’ll change your life. Let me know how it works for you!

Remember, for added security, try to be more complex with the words. Add symbols or numbers, make it longer, and scramble a bit the beginning or the ending of your password string. S4f3ty_f1rst!

Pass the tip to those who might need it.


Updated on Jun 21, 2014: She said yes.

Tweet or email me, and spread the ☺ around.

Plus, if you’re interested in more of this, I’m writing a book! Subscribe for updates on my site.

Next Story — The squeaky door at the end of your comfort zone.
Currently Reading - The squeaky door at the end of your comfort zone.

The squeaky door at the end of your comfort zone.

There is always that movie scene where an old wooden door with rusted metal slowly opens. Suspense music intensifies. A big reveal occurs.

Sometimes, this reveal brings scary things. Sometimes it unveils beautiful surprises. Sometimes it goes nowhere. Truth is, most of the time we tend to accurately guess what’s gonna happen next during this movie scene, and whether we get it right or wrong, it’s somewhat a relief when it finally does happen. Suspense is not for everyone, for sure.

I recently had to open a squeaky door myself. A door at the end of my comfort zone. I decided to steer and stabilize my career path, by taking a decision that has rendered me on a temporary –but well deserved– break. While I’m perfectly equipped for professional opportunities ahead, I’m emotionally outnumbered, and perhaps not so-fit to deal with change (My passwords-as-reminders trick won’t always help, heh). However, writing –among other artsy outlets– allows me to put in words what I can’t draw with my pencil.

Dear reader, follow me. Let’s put ourselves into the shoes of a main character in an imaginary movie scene, and do a quick mental trip together. Place yourself into this situation, and imagine along.


Alongside a dark wall, you walk up to a beautiful simple door. Scribbles of dates, names, and other messages that someone has written to distract you are decorating the door and the frame. This door is right at the end of your comfort zone.

You attempt to open this door.

Alternate Scene A — The door is stuck, you can’t open it.

No matter what, the door won’t budge. “Easy, this is locked.” — You think. Surely, you attempt to find a key, but there is nothing in the comfort zone other than things that keep you safe and confined. No key on sight. No matter how much you look, it’s nowhere to be found.

You try to force the handle repeatedly, but your strength disappears. The comfort zone is like a massive, large room with acoustics that echo and amplify the sounds of your frustration and wasted effort. You don’t wanna hear yourself struggling. You give up, and walk in another direction. Somewhere else in the comfort zone.

Alternate Scene B— The door opens but it leads to the wrong place.

You open the door and walk out but suddenly you realize there’s nothing more daunting than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You look right behind you and there it is – The comfort zone is a well-lit room with soft walls, with signage and way-finding decals all over the place. You come back quickly into a room and close the door. Welcome back! You can’t tell if you’re in the right place at the right time, but you can definitely tell you’re steady and stable.

Alternate Scene C — The door opens.

A warm blinding light hits you and showers the room. Everything shines. You walk through the door frame, marveled, and a bit blind. You wonder if it’s the end. “Is this a tunnel of light? Will Morgan Freeman show up?”

You’re walking onto something great but without any feedback of whether is the right way or not. You can’t tell because it’s just bright, empty space. Exploration is a must. This is an empty canvas where there’s no guidance, signage or way-finding.


Let’s go back to our reality.
What did just happen?
What was that?

This is, my friends, the room of hope. The room of entrepreneurship. The room of job-hunting. The room of retirement. The room of grieving. This is a different room for everyone, ever-changing but always welcoming. It is the right place to be, although perhaps not always at the right time.

A beautiful empty space, with nothing other than a gorgeous tiny wooden box near the door frame behind you, hosting a small silver key with a handwritten note attached to it:

“Please lock the door behind you.”

You lock the door, saying one last good bye to the comfort zone you just left. You turn around and start walking ahead into this newly found space. This beautiful, infinitely vast white room.

You walk, then stride, then run. Sooner or later, you know you’re gonna bump into someone else, doing exactly the same.

Once you find someone in this new room, you’ll know you’re one of many.

One of many that have experienced life transformation, whether is because of work, family, relationships, health, adventure, or circumstance. One of many that perhaps needs to hear your story, or read your letters, or listen to your songs. One of many that needs a hand, or that can offer it.


Whatever the case may be, I salute you, wanderer of the bright room, for you’re one that has just locked the wooden door of the comfort zone, and has decided to move ahead. To move forward.
I salute you, fellow wanderer.

Now, dear reader, pick your scene. Go, and live your own movie! Whatever the genre may be!

I’ll do the same.

Next Story — Dear fashionable pants that made me lose my wallet.
Currently Reading - Dear fashionable pants that made me lose my wallet.

Dear fashionable pants that made me lose my wallet.

[Shanghai, rainy afternoon. Sidewalk. Loud.]

There is a young Chinese guy at the fruit store next to my office. He sells delicious oranges that are freaking unreal. As I wander in my dreams of eating an orange in the afternoon, I quickly realize that I have no money with me.

I don’t have my wallet. Shit.

I apologize, as I was holding the delicious orange with my shaking hands, and promptly return it to the basket. I can hear my stomach going ‘nooooooooo!’ and my heart breaking into pieces.

I walk back to my desk, which is only 47 seconds away. No wallet on sight. Something is wrong.

I realize the source of all my frustration comes from my buttocks. My perfectly unwrinkled pants, remind me that there’s something vital, and very important, that I haven’t paid attention to.

I don’t have pockets in my pants. I have only the fucking flaps that pretend there’s a pocket, but there isn’t one.

I don’t have pockets in these fashionable pants.

Now I am angry, standing next to my desk, patting myself in the butt, trying to reach the back pocket that I don’t have.

I’ve been rubbing my butt with my fingers for about 11 seconds, in hopes of finding a magic pocket that magically appears and contains my wallet. Like some assasstic version of Doraemon. I’m so furious I even made up the word assasstic in my mind.

I write the word down. I’ll need it one day.

Yes, they’re fashionable. The pants are sweet. But why on earth would you skip the damn pockets? In my mind I go through ages of fashion evolution, seeing how smartly new functional bits were added to hives. Ages later, I’m now wearing fancy pants that shrink my leg diameter and push my testicles up, leaving me all hip and smooth but fucking un-functional.

Today I came back, with glorious cargo pants. 8 pockets and a half.

I bought 34 oranges. Now all the office has sugary lips, in the name of fashion.

/m

Next Story — The empty chair near the window.
Currently Reading - The empty chair near the window.

The empty chair near the window.

Excerpt.

James’ eyebrows never seemed so raised, despite the fact his forehead had multiple botox fillings. Just an instant before, there wasn’t any trace of emotion on the top half of his face. In the inner pocket of his suit jacket, he could feel the vibrating phone that he’d been ignoring for the last four minutes.

The room seemed a lot larger than he remembered. He could see the cigarette smoke creating a mild haze that tinted the far objects in a dull shade of blue, as he tried to recognize from the distance the blurry shapes that changed their form, from squares, to circles, to glaring hexagons. The tears pouring out of his eyes didn’t let him focus on the scene. His thoughts got lost in the morphing shapes of scattered light running through his watery eyes. Devastated for having to go through the worst argument of his life, he sat down 30 minutes earlier, and stared at the wall for what seemed to be an eternity.

He remembered his choice of words back a few years ago, on the day he met his wife, Diana. Back in that day, he approached her at the campus, and told her a wacky story about a missing book, and another about a class that she should join. She did.

James’ mind went blank again, sitting in this smokey room. He picked up his wedding band from the floor, cleaned it up a bit, and put it back in his pocket. His finger wasn’t worthy of this ring.

With his hand inside the pocket, he pulled the vibrating phone. Call from Diana, reads the screen. He picked up. A stranger’s nervous voice yells through the tiny speaker, as James holds it against his chest.

“Hello? Hello!?”

Hello.

“Sir, my name is Mark. I’m sorry to disturb you with this. There is a woman that jumped out of a window on Greenwood street. You are the emergency contact on this phone… do you know who she is?”

Yes.

“Sir, I’m very sorry about this. She– Uh- She is… she is dead, sir.”

We all are.

“What? Who is th — ”

James squeezed the phone in his hand with anger, while the street noise became a lot more convoluted. Unusual screams started to populate the air. In the corner of the living room, there was a startled, yet sad looking dog, standing next to a furry toy. The little dog hates sirens. So does James.

James turned his head, in the dullest, saddest way imaginable. He looked at the empty chair near the window. Diana’s right shoe is still there, pointing towards him. The curtains dance with a damp, cold wind that crawls through his legs.

On Greenwood street, on October 12, 2011, a phone fell from the 3rd floor window, breaking into pieces near the dead body of Diana.

So did James.


Cut.

Next Story — Why My Wife and I Have the Same Name
Currently Reading - Why My Wife and I Have the Same Name

Why My Wife and I have the Same Name.

Almost six years ago, a French woman named Gigi couldn’t pronounce my name, so she gave me a new name: Momo. Two days later, everybody in the company was comfortable calling me by that name. I didn’t really mind, even though I figured something was a bit off with it.

My Chinese colleagues loved that nickname. They always said it’s “cute” right before saying It’s a common nickname for girls. Bonus points: it means ‘dumpling’ in Nepal and ‘peach’ in Japan, haha!

Years later, being lonely as I was, the world of dating opened its doors to me after I realized I’m ready to take on a new adventure. My buddy shows up at my desk one day, showing me his mobile phone: “Hey, there’s a new dating app called MOMO!” — I did some quick research. A very popular app, it seemed.

I installed the app later that week. I open the App ‘Momo’. I make my profile, with my nickname ‘Momo’. I use the function ‘Look around for other friends’ and a list nearby women comes up. The first result doesn’t have a profile photo, or at least it won’t show it unless she ‘accepts’ my friend request. This list is ordered by proximity.

That first result was a girl named ‘Momo’. My neighbor. We met the following day at noon, at a small restaurant. She spoke very little english yet she laughed at my jokes. First line I ever said to her: ‘Hey! You stole my name!’ The girl that stole my name, also happened to steal my heart. And heal it. And make it strong again.

Thanks, my beloved Momo, for giving this Momo a chance.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I’m gonna have to tell the same story in front of 150 people.

“Oh look, a wedding!”

TL;DR– French woman names me ‘Momo’, years later I use a dating app with the same name, to meet a Chinese woman with the same name. I guess the app works.

Credits: Photo by Oscar Tarneberg. French woman is Virginie. Friend suggesting app is Rasmus.

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