Two of the most obscure words in the English language are two of my favorites, because they have changed people's lives and their businesses. They also mess with the whole idea of New Year's Resolutions, and give us a better guide for experiencing real, lasting change.

This isn't the place to go into why my two favorite words are no longer in common usage. But if you want to start, run and build a successful business, you would be wise to embrace and regularly use both these words to guide the way you make decisions. Let's take a quick, powerful look at both of them.


Def - the mental faculty of purpose, desire, or will to perform an action; volition.

That definition is woefully inadequate to plumb the depths of this remarkable and life-changing word. Conation is basically the willingness to act on something as soon as you figure out you should. Here are a couple better working definitions:

"The will to succeed that manifest itself in single minded pursuit of a goal." (John McCormack)

And my favorite personal definition of conation - "I want something so bad, I'm already doing it."

Conation is basically intuition in immediate action. Intuition is the accumulation of all our past thinking, feeling and doing that allows us to "know" very quickly how something will likely unfold. When we act on that intuition, that action is conation. I believe the number one indicator of success in an early stage business is Speed of Execution. When business owners conate, they succeed. When they don't, they are exhibiting the traits of my second favorite word.


I stumbled across velleity (vah-lay-ity) in a book on obscure words. The definition actually starts with, "the antonym to conation." It's the only word I know of that starts by telling you what it isn't. But you see why when you understand the meaning of the word itself:

Velleity - The desire, with no intention of doing anything.

One dictionary calls it, "a mere wish, unaccompanied by effort to obtain."

Nothing else could be so clearly the antonym of conation. Conation says I want something so bad that I'm already doing it. Velleity says I would love to have it, but won't put out the effort to make it happen.

Wouldn't it be great if...

Someday I'm going to...

I sure wish that...

It's a real desire, but it's all just velleity.

To Conate or Not To Conate, That Is The Question

June 30, with only 10% body fat, I had a heart attack and found out sugar is not a food but a poison (except for glucose, which is not in our soft drinks or our honey). I'll hammer sugar and the food and pharma industries that ignore and obscure its destructive nature in a future post. The point here is that within a few weeks of my heart attack I had seen enough science to know that cutting processed sugar out of my diet would make living more fun and extend my life. So I did.

In three months my bad cholesterol dropped from 205 to 54, deadly triglycerides went from 207 to 83, and insulin resistance essentially disappeared. All indicators of heart problems dropped to irrelevant levels.

If I was thinking in terms of "resolutions", I would have done what most of us do before we act on our New Year's Resolution. I would have gone on a sugar binge. Or at the very least I would have set a cutoff date a few weeks to a few months out, while I used up the sugar laying around the kitchen and got my sugar affairs in order, all so I could prepare to mourn the death of sugar.

But that would be velleity - a desire, with no intention of doing anything. Conation says that if I want something, I'm already doing it. There is no preparing, adjusting, phasing out or weekend binging down the road. Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try." Classic conation.

When I was a kid, my mother said it even better. "Chuck, there are no excuses, there aren't even reasons, there are only priorities." Mothers often say things that just tick you off because you know there is no wiggle room.

Conating vs. New Year's Resolutions

Do you have a New Year's Resolution you plan to start on January 1? If I would have figured out the sugar thing on December 28, should I have waited four days to do something about it? Four weeks? Six months? If I had to wait until some special day in the future to do what I knew I should do, it would just be velleity. According to research on New Year's Resolutions, the likelihood that I would stick with it is just about nil.

There are no excuses or reasons, just priorities. Velleity is just naked desire. Conation says I want something bad enough that I'm already doing it. Do or do not, there is no try.

Let's mess with New Year's Resolutions and start today, because tomorrow never comes.

Carpe freaking diem already.