Saturday, February 9, 2019

Happy Palentine’s Day!

Do you remember Valentine’s Day when you were back in elementary school?

I remember going to the local store to pick out a big box of Valentine’s cards, most likely Star Wars themed (the original Star Wars, that is, as I was in elementary school in the 70’s). Then at home I would fill out each card, one for every member of my class, boys and girls, and of course the one big card in the pack that was for my teacher. At school we would have our party and I would get a card from all of my classmates.

Then over the years something changed.

As we all got older, we no longer received a card from everyone in our class. Instead Valentine’s Day transformed into a holiday for us and a significant other. Some years I had someone special in my life. Other years I didn’t.

And that is certainly fine. Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to do something special for your significant other, to celebrate your relationship, and to say you love them.

But it doesn’t have to be just that.

Many people around the world are single, and Valentine’s Day can be anything from insignificant to awkward to actually a painful day. However, even if you don’t have a sweetheart, you can still celebrate with…

Palentine’s Day!

Just like back in elementary school, we can take this day to let everyone in our lives know that we appreciate their friendship. I know there are so many people who are important to me, who share a laugh, or share an ear, or share the many moments of life.

  • Family members near and far
  • People I work with
  • Friends I have made through conferences
  • Even folks I only know “digitally” and have still never met in person

Certainly this is something we should do everyday in our lives, but it is helpful to get this friendly reminder to remind our friends how much we appreciate them.

And even if you do have a Valentine, you can still have loads of Palentines!

And for those of you who are single, if you are hoping to find love, I truly wish you well! However, I want to make sure that you are reminded of a few things. Although having a significant other is a wonderful thing…

  • You are not half a person. 
  • You are not a puzzle missing a piece.
  • You are whole!
  • All by yourself you are an infinitely valuable person.

And it is when we realize and embrace the fact that we are a whole person, then we can have the most healthy, interdependent relationships with others, whatever those relationships may be.

So this year, I will be celebrating Palentine’s Day, and encourage you to do so as well. Take some time to let the people in your life know they are important to you. To help out with this, I have created a few simple sample Palentine’s Day cards below that you are certainly welcome to download and send along to your friends (sorry, there are no Star Wars cards). Better yet, make your own with Google Drawings (like I did) or you favorite graphics tool.

And a big thank you ... to you! Thanks for being my friend and making my life richer. Happy Palentine’s Day!








Friday, February 1, 2019

Level Up

When you are going through a difficult time, or dealing with a painful loss, or facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, people try their best to offer words of encouragement. We all do it, and we all really mean well, even when we struggle to find the right thing to say.

Often we will share something positive and hopeful such as:

Hang in there, it will get easier.

It will all work out in the end.

Things will get better.

Now if you are struggling and hurting, I certainly hope all of those things turn out to be true. But I don’t want to lie to you. Unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t get easier. Sometimes life doesn’t work out. Sometimes things just don’t get better.

Thankfully though there is still hope. There is a chance for change. Just maybe not the change we are thinking of.

As usual, since I am a bit of a nerd, my inspiration for understanding this comes from something a bit geeky… video games.

Back in 2004 the greatest video game ever created was released. Word of Warcraft. (Please direct any objections to spam@ericcurts.com) I had played several MMO’s before (From Everquest to Toontown) but I had never seen anything so immersive and expansive as this virtual world.

I created a human paladin, an awesome mixture of might, magic, and holy defender of all that is right. As I ventured around the starting zone of Elwynn Forest, I easily defeated candle-headed Kobolds in the mines, fought gurgling Murlocs by the lake, and collected lots of bundles of wood. Everything was going perfectly.

Then I met Hogger.

Hogger was a level 11 gnoll, the chieftan of the Riverpaw pack. The quest to defeat Hogger is a legendary task in World of Warcraft because for many players it was the first time in the game we actually came across a significant threat. You see, Hogger was “Elite” (with that special embellishment around his portrait) meaning he was much more powerful than anything else at that level.

I died. A lot.

Time and time again I tried to defeat Hogger, and time and time again I found myself respawning from the nearby graveyard.

Eventually I was able to complete the quest, most likely with the help of several other people who joined in the battle to assist. However, like many other players, in my mind Hogger became an enemy of legend, a creature to be feared.

And then I kept playing and moved on to explore Westfall and the Redridge Mountains and Stranglethorn Vale and on and on. And then something strange happened.

From time to time I would have an occasion to pass through Elwynn Forest again, probably going to or from Stormwind, and sometimes I would think of Hogger. Eventually I decided to visit him again. As I rode my horse along the road toward his hill I could feel that old dread and fear mounting up inside me, remembering all of the times he had killed me. When I finally got to Hogger, I attacked.

He was dead in a few seconds.

Huh.

So what had happened? Hogger had not changed. He was still the same level 11 elite monster he had always been. Something else had changed.

I had changed. I was stronger, with exponentially more health points. I was smarter, having mastered dozens of new powerful and devastating spells. I was better.

Sometimes our challenges in life are a lot like Hogger. I truly wish I could say things you face will get better, but unfortunately that is not always true.

  • It is possible the doctors will not find a cure for your illness.
  • It may be that the person you love will not come back.
  • You might battle anxiety or depression the rest of your life.
  • The memories will always be there.

Things may not change. But you can change. Just like leveling up a video game character we can become stronger, smarter, and better.

Like my paladin, sometimes we level up by going on a quest. We may need to move out of our comfort zone, and try something new that stretches us and gives us a new perspective on life.

Other times we level through grinding. In the game that would be the often tedious tasks of battling dozens of low level beasts or collecting loads of resources for a vendor in town. In life grinding can simply mean pulling ourselves out of bed and facing one more day, moving forward one step at a time, not giving up.

We can…
  • Connect with people who love and support us, who will listen without judgement, but speak with honesty.
  • Find things that build us up, whether it be running, meditation, music, painting, or more.
  • Learn about ourselves and where we are broken and work toward rewriting unhealthy mindsets and destructive habits.
  • Value ourselves and take care of our bodies and minds.

And little by little, day by day, we get stronger. We learn about who we are. We grow.

The world around us may not change. We may still continue to face the same problems and the same pain. But when we do, we can face them as a new person, with a different mindset, perspective, and resolve.

Sometimes it doesn't get easier. You get stronger.

Sometimes life doesn't work out. You work through it.

Sometimes things don't get better. You get better.

Monday, January 28, 2019

You Shouldn’t Be Here

You shouldn’t be here. I don’t mean specifically here reading this blog post (I am glad you are). I mean you shouldn’t be here, like, at all.

You shouldn’t exist.

Back in 2011 author Ali Binazir tried to determine the probability that any specific person would ever come to be. Although an exact calculation would not be possible, he did an impressive job making an estimate.

For example, just take your conception. Your mother had around 100,000 eggs throughout her lifetime. During the years you could have been made, your father would have created about 4 trillion sperm. So the chances that the exact egg and the precise sperm came together to make you would be 1 in 400 quadrillion.

That is 1 in 400,000,000,000,000,000!

But that is just you. The same thing needed to happen for your specific parents to be born. And their parents. And their parents. And so on and so on. You get the picture. When all of these and other factors were combined, Binazir came up with his final estimation. The probability of you existing, the specific unique you that is you, came out to be:

1 in 102,685,000

That is a 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeros! To put that is some perspective there are only 1080 atoms in the entire universe. (For more details, there is a copy of the infographic made from Binazir’s data at the bottom of this post.)

Mathematically speaking the odds of you existing are virtually zero. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t exist.

But here you are reading this blog. So what does that mean? Does that make you special? Is this the spot where I go on about how you are a unique snowflake. Well… not exactly.

To help clear this up we need to understand probability a little better. Back when I was teaching middle school math I would often use coins, dice, or playing cards to help illustrate chance. Let’s take this ridiculously large problem and make a much simpler, but similar, version to explain the situation.

Let’s say you roll a single die. What is the chance you would get a "6"? Well there are six sides to a die with numbers from "1" to "6", so you should roll a "6" one out of every six tries, or 1/6 as a fraction.

What if we roll a second die. What is the probability of getting a "6" on one die and another "6" on the other die? Well both are a 1/6 chance, and we multiply the probabilities to get the chance for the combined event. That would be 1/36 or a 1 in 36 chance of getting two "6's".

We can keep extending this out with more and more dice. To keep it simple let’s just stay we use five dice, like playing Yahtzee. What is the probability of rolling five "6's"? Well it is 1/6 times 1/6 times 1/6 times 1/6 times 1/6. That ends up being a chance of 1 in 7,776. Not very likely.

If you roll 6-6-6-6-6 it feels really cool, doesn’t it? Like you have done something very difficult, extremely rare, and intrinsically special.

Well, hang on.

What if you roll 2-5-1-4-2. Doesn’t seem very special at all, does it? But what is the chance of rolling those five numbers? Well each has a 1 in 6 chance, so getting those five numbers would also be a probability of 1 in 7,776.

Just like 1-6-4-5-5 or 6-2-4-1-3 or 4-4-1-5-1 or on and on and on. If you roll five dice you are going to get five numbers. That is a 100% probability (unless you lose some dice under the couch or something.) There’s nothing inherently special about 6-6-6-6-6. It is just one of the many equally likely outcomes.

So what does this have to do with you and me and everyone we meet?

Well, it is like the universe rolled a trillion dice. And you are what came up.

As long as the dice were rolled (that is, kids were had by your parents and their parents and their parents and so on and so on) someone would be the current end result. In this roll, that someone just happens to be you.

So what’s that mean? Does that mean you aren’t special? No, not at all. We are all very special for many different reasons. What I am saying is this is not what MAKES you special.

The fact that you have a 1 in a bajillion chance of being alive, that the odds of your existence are virtually zero, that you shouldn’t be here at all, none of that makes you special. It makes you something else.

It makes you fortunate.

Out of the near infinite possibility of people that could have existed, you are the one who gets to be alive. You didn’t do anything to make it happen, to earn it, or to deserve it. You just got it. YOU get to live!

You won the life lottery. You got the golden ticket to the ultimate Willy Wonka factory. For such a brief moment, a mere 80 to 100 years out of the billions of years in time, you got the chance that countless others did not. To be alive.

To live and learn and laugh. To love and lose and love again. To wonder and discover and to still be amazed. To create and give and take a risk. To let your voice be heard. To make the world a better place.

So stop.

For a moment, just stop right where you are. Just breathe, deeply. Just be quiet and still. Feel your heart beating within you. Remember… you are alive. You are so, so, so incredibly, infinitely fortunate to exist. Don’t lose that. Don't forget it. Don't waste it.

It is so easy to get distracted and discouraged. We can get so caught up in trying to win at the game of life, that we forget we already won the greatest possible prize. We simply get to play it. I have been trying, and failing, but trying to do this in my life. To pause and just be. To exist in the moment and see the beauty all around. To cherish the fleeting days I have. To see past the challenges of life, and remember the joy of living.

There is a beautiful line from the song “Saturn” by the band Sleeping At Last that always breaks through my funk and reminds me just how lucky I am:

"With shortness of breath, I'll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist"

Don't forget that you are so, so fortunate. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t exist. You shouldn’t be alive. But you are.

So... live!



Monday, December 31, 2018

My Silver Linings

2018 was a tough year.

One year ago, at the end of 2017, I made an end-of-year video showing all of the places we had gone as a family, the activities we had done, and the experiences we had shared.

It is now one year later and very little in my life looks the same. Still though I wanted to make an end-of-year video again this year. Yes my life is different, but I am still alive. Life has moved forward one day at a time, and despite loss and sadness and pain, there has been healing and growth and wonderful moments along the way.

The challenge with any end-of-year video is picking the right song. With my big beard I am required by law to listen only to hipster music, so I chose a song I love from the band First Aid Kit, a Swedish folk duo (you have probably never heard of them). The song is “My Silver Lining” and some of the lyrics feel like they were taken straight from my life:

I've woken up in a hotel room
My worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am

I definitely have had my share of hotel rooms this year, as my training and consulting has taken me to 19 states all across the country and even a couple of places in Canada. It is probably different for everyone, but when I go through a difficult time, the mornings are always the hardest. I think it is because I have not had time to get my defenses up for the day, and am hit full force with the cold, hard reality of what I am facing. There’s been a lot of that this year. And a lot of trying to figure out who I am.

Something good comes with the bad
A song's never just sad
There's hope, there's a silver lining

Yes, it has been a very difficult year. There are many things I have lost and that I miss and will probably continue to miss for a long time. But there are also things I have found. There has been good along the way.

  • I have met so many amazing people during my travels this year. New friendships have begun and old friendships have deepened.
  • I have gone places and had experiences I never had before, from the tranquility of Stanley Park in Vancouver, to the dazzling Christmas lights along the Riverwalk of San Antonio, to the Skyline Caverns of Virginia, to the quaint Jello Museum of Le Roy, New York, and so many more.
  • I have played with my beautiful grandson, and felt my heart leap as he looked me in the eyes and joyfully exclaimed “Pa Pa!”
  • I have learned to embrace and enjoy life just for life. To see the beauty all around me. To be at peace with myself.
  • And I grew a big beard.

Show me my silver lining
I try to keep on keeping on

And so I have and will keep moving forward, one day at a time, looking for and finding the silver linings all around. And they are there. Yes, life is challenging and unpredictable and painful, but it also has joy and beauty and wonder. We need to look for, embrace, and celebrate these silver linings.

My end-of-year video for 2018 shares some of these wonderful moments from my life this year. Thank you to everyone who was a part of my life this year in any way! You helped more than you may ever know.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

It’s OK to Leaf it Behind

I have a difficult time letting go of things. I like to think that is a good attribute. I stick to my promises. I am stubborn. I never give up. Sometimes though, letting go is exactly what we need to do, even if it is not very easy.

  • Relationships end.
  • Careers change.
  • Hopes and dreams and plans do not always work out. 

Our instinct can be to try to hold onto these things, with our thoughts, with our hearts, with our actions, well past the time when we should have healed and moved forward. I have been thinking a lot about that. And trees. And leaves.

You see when it is autumn here in Ohio I love to watch the leaves change color and fall to the ground. It is absolutely beautiful to go for a bike ride along the Cuyahoga Valley towpath surrounded by a world of reds and oranges and yellows. Unfortunately that also means raking up several dozen bags of leaves in my yard from all of my trees, but that’s a small price to pay for the crisp air and colorful canvas of the fall.

As I was considering the trees and leaves, I realized how much autumn has to do with this problem of letting go. The trees can teach us a lot about ourselves and what we need to do. Here’s what I mean…

Let’s say I am a tree. And you are a tree. We are all trees.

Our leaves are the many different aspects of our lives. Our spouses or loved ones. Our friends. Our coworkers. Our jobs, hobbies, interests, hopes, dreams, passions. The things we pour ourselves into, and often define ourselves by.

But from time to time the seasons change and winter approaches. This happens for trees every year. We as people also have winters in our lives.

I don't know what it is for you, but I am sure you have faced many winters in your life. Some of mine have come in the form of crucial relationships that ended through death or divorce. Another from the end of a career that was an integral part of my identity. All left me blindsided, hurt, angry, and confused.

When the fall and winter come for a tree, what happens? Of course we all know they lose their leaves. But why do they lose their leaves? Take a moment and think about that.

Here is where a common misunderstanding often comes in. If you ask most people why a tree loses its leaves in the fall, you will probably get an answer that is only partially correct. They may say something about the days getting shorter, so there is less sunlight, so the leaves can’t make enough energy through photosynthesis, so the leaves die, and then finally after they have died they fall off of the tree.

Actually that is not true. Leave don’t fall. They get pushed.

You see only the first part of that explanation is correct. The days do get shorter, temperatures do drop, there is less sunlight, and leaves are unable to make as much energy. This also leads to the leaves changing colors as the lack of photosynthesis allows other dormant colors in the leaf to show through. But that’s where the explanation goes off the tracks. The leaves do not die and just fall off the tree.

Think about this… Have you ever cut a branch off of a tree that was covered with leaves? Or maybe came across one on the ground that broke off during a storm? What did you notice about the leaves? If the branch lays on the ground for long enough, the leaves will most certainly become brown and withered and dead. However, they will not have fallen off. Instead the leaves will still be clinging to the branch just as tight as when they were alive. Why is this?

Well here’s what really happens with trees and leaves…

When a leaf is first grown, the tree also creates a special row of cells between the leaf and the tree called the abscission layer (same root as the word “scissors”). When the autumn brings changes to the leaf (lack of sunlight, colder temperatures, etc.) the cells in the abscission layer begin to extend and separate from each other. You can’t see this with the naked eye, but a microscope will show this clearly. These cells are just like a zipper being unzipped. The tree literally uses the abscission layer to cut the leaf away from the tree while the leaf is still alive. When the leaf falls, it is because the tree cut it loose and let it go.

Maybe we shouldn’t call this time of the year “the fall” but instead call it “the push”.

But why does a tree do this? Why does it let go of its leaves? There are actually many reasons why this is the best things for the tree to do:

  • First, leaves contain water, which is fine during the warmer months, but would actually freeze in the winter, expanding and destroying the cells of the leaves.
  • Next, even though the leaves usually make energy for the tree, in the winter they can no longer do so. Instead the leaves would actually use up valuable energy to be maintained, during a season when the tree needs all of the energy it has left to survive itself.
  • Also, many leaves are beginning to show wear and tear by the end of the year, from wind and bugs and disease.
  • Finally, winter brings snow and ice. While rain may run off a leaf in the summer, snow and ice will cling to the leaves in the winter, weighing them down so much that the branches will crack and break, and the tree itself will be destroyed.

When the autumn comes and winter is approaching, a tree lets go of it leaves for its own survival, with the hope that it will live through the winter and have a chance for new life in the spring.

And just like a tree, there are times in our lives when we need to let go. Let go of a relationship. A job. A dream. Memories. Plans. Unforgiveness. Hurt. Anger. Regret. Guilt.

Holding onto these things occupies our thoughts, consumes our energy, weighs us down, threatens to bend and break and destroy us.

Sometimes we need to let go. To find out who we are at our core. To tend to ourselves. To hope that we too will survive the winter and have a chance for new life in the spring.

It doesn’t mean you are a loser. It doesn’t mean you are a quitter. It doesn’t mean you are a failure.

It means you accept that something has come to an end, and you are ready to move forward, to heal, to recover. And eventually the winter will end, and the sun will shine, and you will have the chance to regrow. New relationships, new dreams, new plans, a new life.

It's ok to let go.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Full Bleed

Back when I was in high school I was the editor for our school yearbook. I learned loads of publishing skills including developing photos in a dark room (with actual chemicals, as this was way before anything digital), writing corny captions, and designing creative layouts.

As part of making layouts, I learned the term "full bleed". This is when you take a photo, or some text, or any design element and run it right up to, or even over, the edge of the page. Normally you would have a margin around each page, but with full bleed you have a picture that breaks out of the traditional constraints and extends off the edge.

For high school yearbooks, full bleed is a good thing. For your life, it is not.

Far too often in my life I have been existing in a state of full bleed. Filling every square inch of my time, pushing myself to the edge, living without margins. Fully bleeding myself out.

For me one of the greatest reasons for this is technology. Now don't get me wrong, I love technology and it can certainly be a force for good, as it has often been in my life. Technology has allowed me to make amazing friends from around the world, improve education for children, and have a rewarding career.

But there is also a dangerous side to technology. It is so powerful and so convenient and so expansive, it can consume your entire life if you let it.

  • There will always be another email to read or write.
  • There is always one more blog post or website or YouTube video to explore.
  • The Twitter stream is actually an unending river.
  • Facebook has no bottom. You can scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll forever and you will never reach the end.

And it is all very justifiable.

  • Retweeting a great resource from an edtech friend.
  • Staying up until 1 AM writing a new blog post on a creative way to use a Google tool.
  • Working late to record a webinar to teach others.
  • Squeezing in time to stay up to date on the latest and greatest tech tools through podcasts or Facebook groups or RSS feeds.

Unfortunately our culture rewards full bleed. We wear bags under our eyes like a badge of honor, and take pride in how few hours of sleep we can get by on.

But we need margin in our lives. We need time that is not committed.

Margin is there for our safety. Think of the guardrail along the side of a twisting mountain road. It provides a space between you and a hundred foot plummet. There is no actual danger at the guardrail. The danger is another six feet away. The margin is there for when, not if, there is an accident, so there will be room to swerve and adjust and recover.

In the same way, life will go wrong. Maybe an unexpected illness, or loss of a job, or end of a marriage, or passing of a loved one. We need margin in our lives to see the warning signs, to have time to make changes, to avoid making things even worse.

But margins are not just about avoiding the bad. Margins are where real life can happen. In a book we use the margins to jot down notes about what we have learned, how we have been inspired, and what we want to explore. The same can be true in life.

When we work ourselves to the bone, fill up every spare moment, and split our attentions multiple ways, we can miss out on the best of life.

  • Life happens in the margins.
  • Life happens when we take the time to have a meal with a friend.
  • Life happens when we turn off our phone and look someone in the eyes and actually listen to what they are saying.
  • Life happens when we walk away from the computer and take a walk through the woods.
  • Life happens when we intentionally choose to do nothing. To give ourselves the gift of no agenda. To stop. To be present. To play. To simply live in the moment. To see the wonders all around us that are so easy to miss.

I don't share these thoughts as someone who has this figured out. I share this as the guilty party. Far too often I have lived in full bleed, with no margin in my life.

But I am trying to change.

You may have noticed my production of technology resources has slowed quite a bit. I have not blogged as frequently or made as many videos or shared as many tweets. I am still doing these things, but not as much. I am trying to find margin.

I have been catching up with old friends. I have been playing with my grandson. I have been questing in World of Warcraft with my daughter and son-in-law. I have been weeding and painting and cleaning. I have been reading books and going for walks and listening to music.

And I encourage you to do the same. When you work, work well. But know when to stop, to play, to live.

Leave margin in your life. And I will leave margin in mine. And I hope to meet you there.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Passwords and Positive Self-talk

I have never been really good at positive self-talk. And there I go again. That is a great example of how I am not very good at it.

However, I do believe in the power of self-talk, both positive and negative, to have a great impact on our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Psychology tells us that what we say aloud to ourselves really makes a difference. Negative statements can bring us down, while positive, encouraging words can build us up. It may be just bit by bit, but every bit makes an impact over time.

Historically I just have not been very successful at taking advantage of this. If anything, my self-talk is often negative, pointing out where I fell short, or forgot to do something, or let someone down, or don’t feel well, or am tired. Hearing these words from my own mouth day after day after day becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I have been working on how to improve this.

At first when I think of positive self-talk, I can’t help but visualize Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. I can see him sitting in front of his mirror saying “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”. As much as I love that character, I am not sure if that approach fits my personality.


As I have said many times before, I am a nerd. So I have been trying out a technology solution to this problem.

Passwords.

Yep, I said passwords.  Passwords are something everyone has, and probably more than one. They are also something that we have to type in often, maybe multiple times per day.

Plus it is important to have a strong password that will not be easily hacked, to improve your security. A common suggestion for this is to use a passphrase rather than a password. A passphrase is a group of words or even an entire sentence. Since it is a sentence conveying an entire thought, a passphrase can be much easier to remember. Of course you can still get creative with capital letters, numbers in place of some letters, and use of punctuation.

So I have decided to make my passwords stronger, and in the process try to make myself stronger as well.

What I have been testing out is making my passphrase a sentence of positive talk. It could be anything like:

  • 4GiveYourselfAndMoveOn!
  • BTheChangeUWant2C!
  • Stop&CTheGood2Day!
  • I*Love*MyselfAsIAm!
  • IAmGr8ful4MyLife!


There are endless possibilities for the positive passphrase you could use. The key is to choose something that builds you up, helps you heal through the pain, and grow toward your goals. Something that acknowledges your value and the value of others. Something that helps you process the past and embrace the present. It will be unique for you.

On our work domain we have to change our password every three months. Of course I can change it sooner if I want. On my Google accounts I can change them anytime I wish. The point is I am now creating a passphrase with a positive message for myself.

Now for the next three months, day after day, maybe multiple times per day, I have to type in that message. When I log into my work computer first thing in the morning. When I unlock it after lunch. When I log in on a different computer for a training. And on and on.

Each time I do this, I am reading a message I sent to myself weeks ago. I am being reminded of a powerful encouraging truth that can help me heal and move forward in my life.

And sometimes it is perfectly timed. I have had those mornings at work when life has not gone well. Maybe nobody in the cubicles around me know that I am struggling, that I feel like a failure, that Facebook just had to choose this morning to show me a picture from 9 years ago of a happier time, that I am feeling lonely, that I am anxious, that I am depressed, that I am angry.

And then I type in my password. A message from myself to myself. It reminds me to forgive, to grieve, to stop beating myself up, to find the beauty, to take one day at a time, maybe even just one step at a time. And sometimes that is exactly what I need.

So everyone needs better passwords. Well if this is something you are going to have to type in hundreds of times over the coming weeks or months, then I encourage you to choose something that will literally encourage you. Create a passphrase of positive self-talk. Strengthen your password and strengthen yourself!