Without question Brian Tracy is one of the finest thinkers, writers and speakers on inner development and personal success. Zero-based thinking is one of his core concepts that allows you to start over, calling time-out in your life and work. It will kill off procrastination and/or instantly stop you in your tracks should you be heading down the wrong road.

Refreshingly, Zero-Based Thinking gives you the opportunity to start over. Look, some things in life simply aren’t worth continuing, for example – staying in a job/career you absolutely loathe, staying in a relationship that stunts your own growth, holding on to an investment property that’s cash-flow negative, etc. I know it’s a cliché but seriously…life really is too short.

Facing Up to Those Difficult Decisions!

Zero-Based Thinking puts previous decisions you made on trial! It requires you to examine all your current activities – business, career, relationships etc., and ask yourself the question: “Knowing What I Know Now (KWIKN), would I still make the same decision? Would you get into that relationship, start the same business; make that investment etc., again”?  If the answer to this question is “No!” then the very next step is to ask yourself “how do I get out of this and how fast”?  In other words, revert to zero and start from scratch. This is the ultimate ‘drawing a line in the sand’ personal development exercise.

Zero-Based Thinking goes against traditional dogma of sticking with something even if does more personal damage to you than good – which is often one of the biggest problems in personal strategic planning i.e. attempting to make something work that you wouldn’t even have gotten into in the first place had you known better.

When Something Isn’t Quite Right

The best indicator of a zero-based thinking situation is stress or frustration; something keeping you up at night and continually preoccupying your mind.

Often the best solution for your biggest problem is simply to discontinue that activity altogether. Just going cold turkey on your biggest problem can be the simplest and most direct solution to that problem.


Making a decision to stop is like grabbing the steering wheel of your own car and wrenching it, stopping you in your tracks immediately and giving yourself the opportunity to turn around. The key idea here is no matter how long you have gone down the wrong road you can always turn back. As they say, there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.

You will be amazed at how creative you become when you do this exercise, examining every area of your life as though you could start again. Numerous possibilities will arise, difficult situations will be confronted and solutions will emerge.

Investing – How to Cut Your Losses

You know, Zero-based thinking is a great decision-making tool when it comes to money management and investments also. I’ve applied this thinking to many of my supposed property investments with the end-result that I sold up and cut my losses. I took a hit but it was better to take the hit than get knocked out, funding cash-flow shortfalls, putting good money in after bad. So, if you know that a particular stock purchase or property investment is simply eroding your wealth now but you’ve had difficulty facing up to this realty, don’t waste a single second more, and ask yourself the hard question: “Knowing What I Know Now…would I purchase that property/stock”. If the answer is no, it’s time to make that hard decision and cut your losses so you can invest your capital elsewhere to get a superior return and build wealth.

Opportunity Cost and the Law of Comparative Advantage

The concept of Opportunity Cost and the Law of Comparative Advantage as attributed to 19th century English economist David Ricardo, is often associated with macro economics and international trade. However, it can equally be applied to personal development. The chief problem with holding onto a business, relationship or “investment” that does not serve you is not just the limitations it puts on you but the real loss is the loss of opportunity elsewhere i.e. business endeavours, relationships, investments you could be making elsewhere that would serve you better.

Remember, every activity/situation has an opportunity cost i.e. the cost of not participating/contributing to another opportunity. A good question to ask yourself to assess potential opportunity costs is, “What other opportunities am I missing out on that would serve me better than my current activities do”.

Each day we are faced with opportunity cost decisions in our business and personal lives. Another lens through which we could view the law of comparative advantage is the 80/20 rule (sometimes referred to as the Pareto Principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, the Italian economist). Applying the 80/20 rule here might also lead you to ask yourself “What are the highest value (20%) activities I should be undertaking” and then delegate or eliminate the other low-value (80%) activities.

In Summary:

If a certain decision you made is now holding you back in life, just be ruthless, use the Knowing What I Know Now Q&A technique to give yourself the chance to start over. There is no honor, no dignity and no purpose in pursuing something that no longer inspires you or serves you. From a wealth creation perspective, Zero-Based Thinking is an excellent way of doing a quick back-of-an-envelope analysis on whether an “investment” you made is still worth keeping or not.

All your problems started out as opportunities or good ideas at one stage….but that could have been a long time. It’s very possible that your life, your needs and your knowledge has evolved and what was once a good idea, opportunity or investment may not be so now. Remember, it’s never too late to do the right thing.  No matter how long you have been going down the wrong road, you can ALWAYS stop and turn back.

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