The Conative Filter

Stop Thinking: Conation, not Cognition.

Conation is one of the 1,000 most obscure English words and yet the most important business word you’ve never heard. Want to know if you’re doing well and going where you want? Filter everything through the word conation:

Conation – the will to succeed that manifests itself in single-minded pursuit of a goal.

Or my definition:

Committed Movement in a Purposeful Direction

It’s nuts that this word has been buried in the lexicon, but there was too much “doing” in it for the academics to feel comfortable, so they let the word drift into obscurity. These Thinker/Cognaters love cognition because it allows them to justify sitting around thinking things to death without taking any action. Conation is scary to them because it requires action and metrics of success, not just pontificating.

But if you bring Conation back into your life and business as your main filter, and use cognition as a faithful servant of your Conation, you’re going to be a lot more successful. Conation is way more important to your success than cognition.

The Conative Filter

  1. Commitment – Affection/Passion – are you sold out to what you’re doing? Willing to go down with the ship? Do you have “quiet resolve” to succeed no matter what? If not, your chances for success are low. Commitment, utter abandonment to the cause is the foundation of success.
  2. Movement – Activation – Doing – are you sitting around cognating (thinking) about what great things might happen if you ever did something? Or are you moving forward and figuring it out as you go? Doers get things done while Thinkers are thinking about doing something someday.
  3. Purpose – Cognition – Discipline/Plan – Do you have a plan for the highest and best use of your time (Yield per Hour)? Cognition is ONE of the things you need to be doing to be successful. It’s a faithful servant of conation.
  4. Direction – Vision – Just because you’re going flat out doesn’t mean you’re going the right direction. Do you have utter clarity about where you want to end up, exactly what it looks like, and when you want to be there? You get what you intend, not what you hope for.

Conation is all four, not just two or three. Direction, Purposeful, and Movement without Commitment will not sustain you. Commitment, Purpose, and Direction are useless without Movement. Movement, Commitment and Direction are of no value without Purpose (a plan to get there).

Want to know whether you’ll be successful, or why you’re not? Use the conative filter to see if you’ve got all four attributes going at once. If not, shore up the one that needs your attention. You’ll make more money in less time and make a bigger splash in the world around you.

People with committed movement in a purposeful direction make history. Cognating dreamers write about them later.

Traditional Branding Isn’t for Small Business

Raving Fans are your brand.

As we start out, we take cues from Giant Corporation, Inc. that we should develop cool logos, fancy brochures, zippy websites, and catchy copy. But this is a waste of time and money for a lot of small businesses and a huge misdirection of focus. There is a better way for most of us.

A janitorial supply company wrote a response in another blog promoting all this fancy “branding” (to which this blog is a response):

“I think the most important thing you can do to brand your company is to provide superior customer support. Here at we pride ourselves on our customer service. We answer our telephones and respond to customer’s needs immediately. Customer service is what sets us apart for the rest and has customers coming back over and over again! has it figured out. For a small company the most important “branding” you can do is provide the best service possible and create raving fans.

Where do 95% of all our customers come from? I ask this question almost every time I speak and from the mouths of thousands of business owners → “95% of our future customers come from our existing customers referring them.”

For those under 30, 85% of product discussions are face2face and only 7% are online. The rest are by telephone or email. For those over 30, 92% are face2face and the rest are online, email, and phone. Our customers are talking directly to their FRIENDS, not with strangers or digital friends online. They are telling their FRIENDS what their experience was with us. And 90+% of our customers come from those human, face2face discussions.

So what are we doing going out and buying advertisements and creating fancy brochures and clever tag lines to attract people we’ve never met? The best brand we can build is to

get those who know us, to love us.

When we get big and have more money than time, we can go the fancy ad route.

But for now, focus on being the best in YOUR world and specifically on turning customers into raving fans. That’s the best branding you can do because it’s authentic, it’s really who you are, and it’s targeted at your best opportunity for finding future customers – from your existing ones.

Good on you,!


Why Words Matter

Lame words are powerful, too.

Words represent powerful ideas, whether we mean for them to or not. We might as well be intentional.

Zig Zigler said, “be a meaningful specific, not a wandering generality”. The words we use to represent ourselves and our businesses are much more important than we usually think.

WORDS ARE ALWAYS POWERFUL, even when we think they are badly formed. If the way you talk about your business is “lame” or “weak”, that is incredibly powerful in driving people away or causing them to simply look right past you. If your words are gripping, they are powerful in drawing people into a conversation with you to find out if there is a fit.

Here’s how John Marshall of My Green Parachute found the company’s powerful story (one sentence) in a group session we call FasTrak, where we focus on narrowing your identity. Objective – so people have a handle to carry you around easily.

Fastrak showed me that our company was lacking a simple identity. As a result we had been talking to the wrong people in the wrong way for 2+ years. We immediately trimmed our sales staff and coaches, fired our national sales manager and since the launch of our new identity we have had over 500+ registrations, which include entire offices that want to participate across the country.

I loved how simple this was. I have learned an entire new business model and transformed a national business that had been on the brink of shuttering its doors before it could ever get off the ground because it did not realize its own purpose for existence.

Do you have a simple, powerful message that makes you a “meaningful specific”, or are you another “wandering generality” who thinks they can just start talking and people will eventually get it?

Here are a few ideas on the “how”:

  1. Resist the temptation to be everything to everyone. The narrower you identity yourself the better. A local guy here was an interior woodworker who decided to focus solely on stairs rails and built a $2.4 million business with 14 employees. I have dozens of stories like this. I dare you to go narrow – you’ll make a lot more money in a lot less time.
  2. Don’t talk about what you do. Nobody cares. Talk about the OUTCOME for your customer – the result expressed emotionally. If they like they outcome, they’ll ask you what you do to get them that outcome.
  3. Say it simply. Stop using business words. They’re boring and pretentious. Talk to me like a human being. People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.
  4. Say it in a very few words.
  5. Make it so graphic and clear that anybody can easily remember it and pass it on. If you’re the only one who can explain what you do, you’re dead in the water. Movements are created by simple, viral messages that everyone can carry to the next person. Business “gurus” will have you running in circles creating a complex and incredibly impressive offering. And nobody will buy it.
  6. Ask your customers, “What are you buying that you don’t even think I know I’m selling?” The answer will reduce your blabbing.

Words are powerful either way. You might as well get them working for you instead of against you. Know who you are and how to tell others in one sentence.

John’s story is a good start. I’d love to hear how finding your few words that matter helped your biz, too.


What Do You Want to Be Known For?

An empowering vision.

What are you building with your business? Do you know? If not, it’s never too late to get this answer. Stop for a moment and get it, because every decision will fall from this one if you have it answered. People who try to make money rarely make very much of it. People who answer this question understand it is where significance begins.

We sometimes confuse what is good for us with what works for big business. We see Giant Corporation, Incorporated focused on return on investment (ROI) to it’s shareholders and think that we should do that. They are a lousy example of what you want to be known for. They have a legal responsibility to focus on making money, we don’t. And I can tell you that people who focus on something bigger than making money always make more of it.

What do you want to be known for?

And it’s even true with a very few Giant Corp. companies. As Raj Sisodia found in his book Firms of Endearment , 28 of the Fortune 500 have declared to their shareholders that they are about something bigger than making money – they want to be know for something else. You would think that might distract them from making money, but you would be wrong.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collin’s identified 11 companies that beat the S&P 500 profit standard by at least 300%. Raj’s 28 Giant Corporations that focused instead on something bigger than making money do 1,072% better than the average S&P 500 company.

This relationship between focusing on something bigger than making money and actually making a lot is even more clear with small businesses. Why?

Making money is not an empowering vision.

People make money for two reasons:

1) Survival – survival is a very strong instinct. It is not surprising that most people make just enough money to pay their bills. And the only way that they can motivate themselves to make more is to constantly increase their lifestyle so they can ensure there is always more money going out than coming in. Staying in this Cycle of Poverty, even when you’re making millions, is a great way to ensure you will always be motivated only by survival.

I have a former client who lives that way. His house is beautiful and his cars are gorgeous, and he doesn’t sleep at night. He is in survival mode all the time. He bought the 80’s lie “He who dies with the most toys wins”, and is a hostage to his business and his lifestyle.

2)Significance – An empowering vision – People who see money as a means to an end that is bigger than the toys it can buy are much more likely to make a lot more of it.

You should have as the objective of your work to move from SURVIVAL right through SUCCESS (the imposter of toys) to SIGNIFICANCE.

What do you want to be known for?

I address this in Making Money Is Killing Your Business. Answer that question and you’re likely to get up tomorrow a lot more motivated regardless of the economic climate. And you’re likely to be a lot more successful because you have committed movement in a purposeful direction.

Get out of my way. I have somewhere I have to be.

It’s a lot more motivating than, “I made 6% more this year.”

What do you want to be known for?