Year Zero is the name of my new initiatives. After launching recently with the new branding, I received an email from a curious client asking what I would be doing with the name in the upcoming years. You know, when it’s Year Zero + 1 year then Year Zero + 2 years (or Year One and Year Two for the mathematically inclined).
I replied that it’s always Year Zero. No matter where you are in life or what you’re doing, it’s Year Zero for the next stage. The current moment is perpetually Year Zero of the rest of your years.
The name is a reminder. We are not stuck in tracks or slotted into fixed paths. At any given point we can take stock in our lives, assess what we’re doing and where we want to go, and from that point head out in any new direction.
I know, I know. That’s not completely true. We have obligations, things we need to see through. Family and business commitments that would be hard (or even cruel) to extract ourselves from.
But it’s a lot more true than we think. We can reset and restart and redirect in so many more ways than we think, than we dare consider. We can do it with our own personal behaviors and thoughts and habits — healthy living, committing time where we choose, directing love and energy where we prioritize, breaking free of self-destructive or even toxic environments and life patterns.
Economists talk about “sunk costs”. These are costs one has incurred that are done, paid for and cannot be recovered. The primary insight of sunk costs is that they should have no impact on future decisions. They are sunk, and therefore irrelevant going forward.
But human psychology has an irrational attachment to sunk costs. And time after time we stay on a course merely because we had invested in that path, even though the investment is a sunk cost. Many spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education in a particular field, then lose all interest in it. So often that person sticks with that field because they had invested so much time and money in that path and feel obligated. This is a sunk cost. Let go of any attachment to a path merely because it cost you something to get to this point. The assessment is future opportunity vs. future cost.
When it comes to investment in learning, many aspects are transferable in ways that one cannot see up front. Virtually any educational experience has some transferability to alternate paths. Did it teach problem solving? Teamwork? Discipline? Communications skills? Most learning is transferable across life. That’s why it’s always the best investment.
A famous example is Steve Jobs studying calligraphy in school, which had a direct impact on the elegance and design of the Mac operating system as Jobs meticulously obsessed over fonts. Nobody could have connected those dots up front. Examples of this are endless.
So think of today as Year Zero and consider how you might reset and reboot for a fresh start. And periodically do assessments from the perspective of Year Zero of the rest of your life.
This does not mean jump around erratically and never finish anything. Momentum and progress from the past will inform and establish your opportunities to choose from. Find ways to build upon that. But do look at the landscape of your opportunities and do make a choice. Or the choice will be made for you.
Year Zero is a choice. Your choice. Use it.