Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Cost of Paranoia

I must be on a 'password' subject matter kick. I'm going to write about passwords again today, but this time from a different perspective.

After the burglary in my home, I went through a couple weeks where I was hyper sensitive about security issues. OK, one might even say I was a bit paranoid!

In the 24 hours after the theft of my laptop computer I changed every online password that I had. I carefully documented all of the new passwords, and they are stored in a secure location. This was not paranoid, but a necessity.

When I got my new computer and started setting it up, I decided to change the passwords on my email files. Not a bad idea, but my paranoid tendencies were in such full swing that I changed my passwords, but would not write them down, even temporarily, until I could add them to the secure list. I was afraid to write the passwords down on a scrap of paper and have it 'in existence' in my house for a couple hours! I decided that I would remember the passwords, and add them to the secure list later.

Guess what? Even a few hours later, I went back to log in to my email... and I couldn't do it! I could not remember the passwords! First off, I changed them while in a state of mind that is not my norm. I was extremely stressed and probably a little in shock from the burglary and all. The main problem, however, was my deep fear that I was placing my self (or my email in this case) in jeopardy by simply writing down the passwords! For goodness sake... I own a shredder and could have destroyed the piece of paper within a few seconds if need be. I simply didn't want to write it down. Not anywhere. As a result, I couldn't get into my own email for several hours, until someone helped me crack the password. It was actually frightening to me how easy that was, by the way.

At any rate, this entire story was a great reminder that we can get so crazed about the security of our things (and our selves) that we can lock ourselves out of our own life! What a metaphor. We can try to make ourselves 'safe' and 'secure' and paralyze our ability to live life.

I'm reminded of the stories I've heard about W.C. Fields and how he was so worried about someone swindling him out of his wealth that he hid all sorts of assets throughout his life. In the end, many of these assets (bank accounts, etc) were never found, and his heirs did not receive them. In the end, he swindled himself, because of his paranoia about the 'threats' in the larger world. He became his own worst nightmare.

That's what happened to me that day with my passwords. I was the problem... not any nebulous 'threat' in the larger world. The danger lurked inside me.

I'm a big believer in being prepared and taking appropriate precautions to protect ourselves and our things. We do, however, need to constantly monitor ourselves for the occasions when we cross that line and start to over do it and damage our quality of life. Paranoia can be costly in the physical, emotional and mental realms. Let's not go there!

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